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Understanding the Cult of Infinite Scrolling

November 20, 2013 by Mainak Biswas under Social Networking Strategy229 views
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Infinite scrolling is attractive to some and burdensome to others. It has stayed long in people’s minds. In fact, it has reached a cult-like status among web designers. Twitter, newsfeeds of social networks, certain websites that are image-based, and a host of other websites employ infinite-scrolling. However, one needs to stop and ask ourselves: is infinite scrolling really the way to go forward?

The prevalence of infinite scrolling in social media

The birth of social media saw an over-dependency on infinite scrolling in a bid to handle the ever-burgeoning user-generated content. Social media would never have been the same if it was not for the gift of infinite scrolling from web designers to the then internet-savvy people. Web designers use a lot of cues from these yesteryears even now.

A lot of pages from the social media circles have now loosened the load on themselves because of over-dependency on infinite scrolling and are exploring other alternatives to handle the overload of information on their sites- infinite scrolling looks like its outdated. You should comprehend the large volume of information generated here to get a feel of the predicament of the people in social media. This exploration of alternatives may take long but it is a welcome step.

How have popular websites limited the use of infinite scrolling?

Here are a few steps these social media giants have taken to get a grip on their sites and do away with infinite scrolling. Let us look into that.

1. Facebook

Facebook caters to people in the millions- 450 million and counting, to be exact. An average user glued to Facebook, which is often the case, can generate a huge volume of information from his likes, statuses, photos or videos. And this avalanche of information can put to shame the widely catalogued information in many of the world’s libraries.

To curb this over-dependency on infinite scrolling and explore other options, Facebook has adopted a whole new breed of strategies. One of them is the categorization of the news feed wherein the posts of its many users are grouped into top stories, most recent stories and the like.

Top stories direct the users to the gossip about the friends whom the user has been in constant touch with and thus considers their company worthwhile. It should be noted that many users on Facebook do not meet the whole of their friends in their list personally and are total strangers to them. This categorization can solve a lot of problems infinite scrolling resolves and can be a good alternative.

Most recent stories are carefully picked by Facebook through an algorithm that decides what the users are best interested in and the posts that are very fresh. This is better than the stale news which some users detest.

Facebook also reserves some other good features such as the option to view older stories. These stories are the ones that the users have very likely missed and can be important to them. These are the ones such as important events like a wedding, a birthday or anything else. These photos and albums make sure that nothing is missed or else the user could land in a soup concerning his friends.

Another important feature that Facebook has come up with is giving its users the liberty to subscribe to their most important friends’ news feeds. A click of the button ensures that everything that their friend posts does not miss their attention. This optimization to the infinite scrolling system can allay fears of the users being in the dark regarding their friends’ antics.

Facebook has greatly improved with the recent hacking fiasco that it had fallen victim to. Needless to say, Facebook can come up with a great substitute to infinite scrolling in a few years. This innovation by Facebook can make many heads turn.

2. Twitter

To lessen the load on its website, Twitter limits the characters in its tweets to 160 and once the tweets are full to the brim it is never shy to admit that its network is busy and congested. It notifies the user that the tweets are full to its capacity and the social network is up and running after a few minutes.

Twitter also prompts an average user to group their tweets into hash tags. Once a user searches for a piece of information via a tag it magically appears and is thoroughly grouped. This information is streamlined. Prompting the user to group his own tweets is a good idea to counter heavily relying on infinite scrolling.

Also, the mobile version of Twitter makes an attempt to put the user at ease by the introduction of a useful button that asks the user whether he wants to go back to the top after he has scrolled to the near bottom of the page. This is kind of useful because many users are not aware of the usefulness of the ‘Home’ and ‘End’ buttons on their keyboard. Hence they find it very difficult to navigate the page. Twitter’s infinite-scrolling has worked in its favor, though.

What should web designers be watchful about infinite scrolling?

Here are some of the users’ habits that make a web designer to watch their step when they plan to tread into the ambit of infinite scrolling:

1. Users want access only to exclusive data

The users of the website in question here do not want a deluge of information flooded to their monitors but welcome the thought of having a lot of this on their fingertips. They should be allowed to explore many of the information at their whim while the most important piece of data that they have come searching for should be at their hand’s reach. Thus a website designed with a readily available content can be termed usable by its users.

2. Users want to keep themselves posted

Imagine the plight of the users when they do not know the volume of data that is remaining to be displayed and they have to scroll all night. As this aspect of infinite scrolling can prove daunting to them, a progress indicator that shows the amount of data remaining can do the trick to ameliorate the side-effects of infinite scrolling.

3. Users want the infinite list to be navigation-friendly

Infinite scrolling surely involves an infinite list, but it should be tamed to meet some common interface standards. When users navigate away from a page by clicking on a link or open a new page or even take their eyes off the page for a moment, just a click of the ‘Back’ button should be expected to take them to the point where they left scrolling their infinite list. This can solve a lot of issues arising out of infinite scrolling.

4. Every user wants a data that is presented in a simple way

A lot of complication in the endless list of data can make the user end up dazed. This complication can mean an overload of effects that are supposed to aid the user but force him to think otherwise. An effective presentation of the data is the need of the hour.

5. Have a sticky search button

Infinite scrolling solves a lot of problems but if the person is trying to go back to the search bar to find something that is lost in reams of infinite scrolling, he will have to scroll back up to the menu bar. And that can be very annoying. This problem can be easily fixed by having a sticky search bar that moves along the page as a person scrolls up or down. It will help to search text or information within the page no matter where it is, if it has already been loaded.

Conclusion

A web designer must bear in mind that infinite scrolling has been in business for many years and has its own share of problems. However, it also has a lot of advantages that we cannot overlook. When a web designer chooses to take the infinite0scrolling path, he or she should ensure that adequate measures are taken to increase the usability of a website. Talking about its disadvantages, a lot of brands have experimented to curtail its use but find it almost impossible to do away with it. Hence a few steps taken and guidelines adhered to can make the infinite scrolling experience a pleasant one to the user. Infinite-scrolling is not an annoyance but a necessary part of the web designing process.

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