The word infinite, meaning “endless”, carries strong symbolism in our culture. Husbands and wives reinforce their wedding vows on the belief that their marriage and love will last forever. Mathematicians teach the ambiguous idea that numbers can be infinite. The infinity pool provides the luxury of an endless waterscape with privacy. Even the Infiniti car suggests endless futuristic possibilities in technology and innovation. But what does “infinite” mean for the web design world?

Since the explosive popularity of the smart-enabled mobile phones, web design has completely changed its course in SEO and social networking endeavors. The development of the infinite scroll came from the need to effectively present information on a mobile devices’ limited screen, which requires users to view content vertically. The desire to enhance our interfaces and promote content has since skyrocketed from 2011.

The infinite scroll allows users to view an ocean of information while new content loads automatically. The purpose of this tool is to expose as much to the user as possible. Pinterest and Twitter demonstrate a successful use of the infinite scroll within social media. For example, Twitter enables large “tweets” on a real-time platform, where all “tweets” are displayed as equally relevant. Additionally, on mobile devices, Twitter adds a “torn paper” marker to indicate to the user where to resume their reading. This subtle and simple solution grants the user a visible return point. Therefore, this marker gives the reader an indication of read and unread information while utilizing a successful infinite scroll.

From these immediate social media successes, designers and publishers are doing away with traditional pagination. A strong SEO company can utilize Google and index content rendered through AJAX as a progressive enhancement. This should alleviate their concerns with issues in the infinite scroll, but if overlooked it can cause problems. However, with any new tool in design, trial and error is common and its equal balance of pros and cons renders this enhancement worth investigating.

PROS

  • Faster Browsing

Pagination can be extremely time-consuming and not an efficient way to browse content. Infinite scrolling can be a much smoother, enjoyable experience.

  • Touch

The touch screen feature on many devices has enacted a positive change in the design world and infinite scrolling is considered a new and forward-thinking experience.

  • Exposure

Research shows that few go beyond the first page of search items, especially with Google. For example, only 6% of users make page advancements, so 94% are satisfied with the first 10 results. Infinite scrolling views all content as equal, and older content therefore has a longer shelf life.

CONS

  • JavaScript

Because this technique is dependent on JavaScript being enabled on the viewing device, some will have problems with infinite scrolling.

  • Navigation

Bookmarking and navigating back to an earlier page is almost impossible as users have to start from the top. Also, the infinite scroll doesn’t indicate to the user how much content is available – it seems endless!

  • Focus

“Pogosticking” happens when you click away from an infinitely scrolling list and are brought to the top of the list instead of your previous point of reference. It can become disorienting at best, and extremely frustrating at worst!

What’s worth investigating is the ability to create a hybrid, by incorporating traditional pagination and elements of infinite scrolling. This way, those without JavaScript can still have effective performance and visual quality when web browsing.

While not every kink has been worked out of endless scrolling, it’s definitely a futuristic trend that is sure to continue. We’ll probably be seeing it on more and more large and highly trafficked sites in the near future.

Author bioAdrienne Erin is a designer, developer, and writer who loves those rare opportunities to bring all her interests together in one post, like this one! Liked this post? Follow Adrienne on Twitter to see more or get in touch with her if you want her to write an article for your blog!