Why I hate Infinite Scrolling

Mahesh K on July 08, 2018

I am sure you have seen old Pre-Material Design YouTube homepage layout where they had the menubar and essential details in the footer. And you h... [Read Full]
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It's one thing I appreciate about Twitter. The menu links are at the bottom of a sidebar. Then you can scroll through the main feed forever without worry.

I like the seamless experience of infinite scroll. If I read one item, I'm more likely to read another if I don't have to work for it. But I don't like truly infinite scroll. If I am invested enough to scroll down for dozens of pages, I probably want a page link (or better yet a cursor) so I can pick up wherever I leave off. I think it should be limited.

Going back to Twitter, here's one thing I don't like. Sometimes I will look at a user's profile. I'll scroll down for a while and read a lot of their tweets and say "I like this person, I should follow them". But the follow button is all the way back at the top of the page. D'oh!

 

I think it definitely works on sites like Twitter, but they've confused things by adding features which mix up the order of posts, promoting things and putting "in case you missed it" posts up at the top. Combine this with the fact that retweets are shown in the order they were retweeted but your "likes" page is shown in the order the posts were made, means that even though I've been using it for years, I've basically given up on assuming any kind of order.

 

At least Twitter mostly still goes by post date.

Facebook made that a separate feed that you need to practically dig for to find now; it's not actually an option for the news feed itself anymore.

Everything there is filtered through their algorithm that decides what you're mostly likely to enjoy, and posts will show up in the feed again at a later time if there's activity on them from friends.

All that plus reloading the entire feed when exiting the Post comments (on the mobile app specifically), making it hard to find the same post again if you're trying to share it.

I really hope Twitter doesn't go any farther than it has away from a linear feed. There is at least some sense left in how they built it.

 

Another example problem is when newspapers insist on limiting the number of free articles you can read per month and then also include articles that were fetched by infinite scrolling in that count. Bloomberg does this before you can even see the headline of the second article.

 

I don't know when the infinite scroll will end.

This is my big one.

I was adding books to my massive Books Amazon wishlist today and wondered how large the list is. Navigated to the list. There's no totals or pages... only an infinite scroll. Like, the dev.to bookmarks kinda did a lazy load thing after a while, but at least I had a number to tell me I had over a 120 things left to read (I'm now down to 0 though!).

Offer manual triggers for infinite scrolling with buttons.

If you're doing this, I'd just say go full pagination with buttons for navigating instead of infinite scrolling. All or nothing for giving me control of my browsing.

 

I had over a 120 things left to read (I'm now down to 0 though!).

Did you just remove all your bookmarks? :P

 

It was tempting, especially since every time I read something off the list I seemed to gain 3 more to read later.

But! I actually read them all. And anything I wanted to save as a resource later, I open sourced as a list with notes and categories :D

Eventually, I want to take my snippets of saved notes and links and make a webpage of them all with markdownjs or something like that.

Congratulations! I also have trouble keeping up with my reading list. I took a look at your list of resources, very interesting, thanks for sharing!

Be careful or you'll add more things to your list of things to read! :)

 

I really don't like websites that hijack the scrollbar in general. Websites that are trying to show off their three.js skills are a big culprit of doing this.

 

i'm still baffled that some Designers don't realize that you can't put stuff in the footer when you have infinite scrolling, yet they do. and a lot of times they put important things there that you can't reach any other way.
fortunately i know how to use the developer tools in my browser. but what are do "normal" people supposed to do?

 

Why not have a sticky footer where the infinite scroll passes under?

 

Tons of brooken sites with that design already. It just doesn't work.

 

Infinite scrolling works really well for Reddit and Google Search results. Not much more.

 

Not true. Often overlooked are static data tables. With robust searching, sorting and filtering, infinite scroll can be implemented properly. Pagination is an imposed filter, and page numbers are completely arbitrary. And let's stop calling everything that scrolls, infinite scrolling. Only dynamic user-created content is infinite.

 

DuckDuckGo utilizes it as well...so do a lot of other search engines.

 
 

It would solve some of them, but then that's difficult to achieve on small devices without having to have a floating button or a slide-out panel.

 

So why not have "a floating button or a slide-out panel"?

 

I am sure you have seen old Pre-Material Design YouTube homepage

Err...I haven't, and probably some others reading too.

When writing, I try not to make too many assumptions, especially about what a reader may or may not have done. It tends to throw the reader off and makes them feel like they've been slacking off. It would help if you included a screenshot, or if you couldn't/wouldn't find one, rephrase the sentence as "Before switching to Material Design, YouTube's old home page had the menu bar...".

That said, good article. I agree with you. Most times, I dislike infinite scrolling because of the poor implementation.

 

You cannot appreciate true ugliness of infinite scroll and bastardisation of web pages until you visit MUO e.g. makeuseof.com/tag/set-up-bluehost-... is a typical long form article scroll to the end of page, and then it loads another long form article without asking you. If you want to save web page as an MHTML archive file - nope MUO broke it. I find pages slow, memory hogs, and screws up my browser history track with pseudo links when you scroll. MUO articles are some of the best around but they ruined their web site. I wonder how page crawlers handle this.

 

Thing I hate most in infinite scrolling is that there are usually no means to save a position in an infinitely scrolling list to come back to it later. On an archive page of a typical 2000s web forum if I for whatever reason need to examine every thread, I can usually sort threads from oldest to newest and then and at any point I can bookmark my current position.

It's neat, and I used it many times, infinite scrolling won't let me do anything like that.

 

I generally dislike infinite scrolling for the reasons you state and for things like breaking the scrollbar (the browser or app's scrollbar still works to navigate backwards but does not give a useful indication of where you are in the content and will keep resizing itself as you move down)

You can make it better with things like section headings as you scroll down; if it's posts ordered by date then having a divider showing the date as it changes will keep people from feeling quite so overwhelmed. Making this divider into a clear anchor so people can bookmark it will help.

You also need to be aware of what happens when people follow a link and then use their browser's "back" button to return to your infinite scroll. If you don't land them at the same place (and I mean the same place, not just somewhere close) then they're going to hate you.

Something that indicates a percentage of progress would help, too, to take the place of the familiar scrollbar.

 

Yes, yes, and yes. Thanks for writing the post I've been wanting to.

btw, even dev.to home page has a footer under an infinite scroll... Ahem, @ben

 

Yes, but we have all the same info on the sidebar and linked in the main nav. 🙃

 

I think that Infinite Scroll is useful; but a cheap trick in most implementations.
If used properly, it creates an endless amount of information that the user can dive into for long periods of time.
If used improperly, a user like yourself may feel like the site is intentionally trying to fluff up and abstract it's content from the end user.

I do think that your tips for avoiding stress points are very useful and other developers should take note for their implementations.

 

I always appreciate webpages that have a "Load more" button, so that you can explicitly opt-in to the infinite scroll, as well as some way to jump back to the top.

 

My greatest problem with infinite scroll is that it breaks URLs. When you have pagination, elements shift around as content gets added, but you can still send someone a link or save a page, and when you open it the next day, you may need to advance a page to get to the content you wanted, but with infinite scrolling you completely lose that hability and instead have to scroll to the desired position each and every time you load a page.

I really think infinite scrolling should be either an easy to opt out feature, or even an opt-in feature for some types of page.

 

How do you feel it on a about a site like... I don't know, a developer blog community feed? 🙃

 

There are a million articles about this, and none of them address data tables in enterprise applications.

 
 
 

I generally don't like it too. But it works for twitter.
I like when I can see how many pages are there and that I can jump to any page or to the last one.

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