Infinite Scrolling vs Pagination

Infinite Scrolling vs Pagination

Posted on 05 July 2016 by Jason

We’ve recently encountered a conundrum with a few of our websites. Which method is best to use and why? Infinite scrolling (the page never ends) or display pagination (allowing users to flick through pages at their own leisure). There are of course positive and negative points of both and we thought it’d be interesting to list them down in an attempt to establish which one is best from a technical, frontend and user experience point of view. Let’s get started.

Infinite Scrolling – The Positives

  • It’s essentially an efficient way of browsing a wealth of content without having to wait for pages to load. Think of Google images - infinite scrolling seems like a perfectly logical method of presenting this type of data.
  • It's a fantastic way of presenting information to users who don’t generally know what they are looking for. They can see a large amount of items within a very short time period.
  • It’s not only beneficial for image based searching, when reading a tutorial, it’s far more user friendly to use a long page than a paginated approach.

Image courtesy of http://visualhierarchy.co

Infinite Scrolling – The Negatives

  • Infinite scrolling is not great for page loading times. With so much data being loaded onto the users’ screen, performance is bound to be affected – especially on less powerful devices such as a tablet or smartphone. Couple this with research showing that slow load times result in people physically leaving your site and the question is starting to answer itself.
  • Results are harder to bookmark on an infinite scrolling interface. Of course this relies on a fairly static stock base.
  • The scrollbar is constantly changing size. This fails to give the user an indication as to how many results they are likely to be shown, or how long they have left until they reach the end.
  • The footer becomes almost impossible to reach as the content is forever pushing it down.

Pagination – The Positives

  • Pagination presents the user with a clear indication as to how many results or items they going to be shown. They can then decide whether further narrowing down of the search criteria is needed, or equally, if only a few results are shown, search expansion.
  • According to David Kieras' video, "Reaching an endpoint provides the user with a sense of control".
  • Similar to the first point, when a user sees how many pages or results they are presented with, they are able to make an informed decision as to how long it’ll take them to browse the content.
  • A paginated interface allows the opportunity to bookmark pages or locations of items with greater ease. Of course, this again relies on a somewhat static stock level.
  • When building an ecommerce interface, pagination is great. When users shop online, they want to come back to the place that they left to continue their shopping.

Pagination Example

Pagination – The Negatives

  • We can only really think of one reason here, and that is the physical act of pressing the next button. There are page loading times involved with loading a whole set of assets, but the majority of the site should already be cached.

The ‘Load more’ button

  • A halfway house in a few ways, but closer to infinite scrolling than pagination. We’ve not used this option as of yet as there seem to be the same negative points (aside from actually being able to access the footer) as the infinite scrolling method.

To Summarise

It appears that there are both positives and negatives of both solutions. Whilst infinite scrolling may well suit the Google images or Pinterest environment, it may prove detrimental when browsing for a red pair of shoes, size 8 with flashing lights in the sole. It essentially boils down to the scenario that you might find yourself in, and which solution then provides the best end result for the user. 

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