Once again, I decided to write about a topic that Smashing Magazine recently covered. This time, we’ll talk about pagination, and why I prefer it over the nemesis known as “infinite scrolling”.
That isn’t to say infinite scrolling doesn’t have its uses; Twitter and Facebook both do it fairly well (however, I wish Facebook handled it better, especially on their mobile apps). I do believe, however, that it has been used much to the detriment of users much too often.
Slashdot tried it, and switched back to pagination (thank goodness). Gawker Media uses it now. DeviantArt uses it. The Cheezburger Network used to use it. In each of these cases, I’ve found it to be increasingly frustrating, and here’s a few reasons why.
One, when browsing a large amount of content, it makes it impossible for you to close the browser window and go back to where you were at. That can be incredibly frustrating. With pagination, you can quickly bookmark the page you were at, and not have to worry about it.
Two, especially in the case of long form material, you can’t link to a specific page or section easily to share with others. No problems with pagination; is there an important point made on page two? Just copy and paste the URL!
Three, it eliminates the beauty and utility of the footer, creating more clutter in the header and content area. The footer is the standard location for a sitemap, copyright information, and contact information – all important in the web world – which hurts the end user.
Four, it increases memory usage in the browser the longer you spend on a site. Try looking through a large photo gallery on Facebook if you don’t have a lot of memory; you’ll see your system start to become sluggish, and find it even more difficult to browse.
Fifth, it makes various scrolling methods impractical, such as holding on the scroll bar itself. You’ll find that every time it dynamically loads content, you’ll jump down further, and have to scroll back up.
And, finally, the same old song I always sing.. It creates yet another point of failure, and increases stress on the users machine, as well as the servers.
I myself almost quit browsing Gawker Media when they switched to infinite scrolling. I DID quit browsing the Cheezburger network when they started using it (given its a media-heavy site, the memory usage could exceed the usage I get with Photoshop and Illustrator open, regardless of the browser I’m using).