I think this post is more like a follow up to my previous post on whether to use SPAs or not. Confession: I started writing that article, and this one, because of a website that completely irritated me. It was a matrimony website. If you didn’t know, matrimony websites are like dating websites, but you skip the dating and go straight to the wedding. The interfaces are made very similar to shopping sites – in fact it actually feels like a shopping site for brides and grooms.
Of course I have a problem with the ideology of those sites, but I’m here to talk about this particular one – and what irked me about it the most. The fact that it was an SPA was obviously off-putting because the concept of SPA was deliberately and unnecessarily thrust upon the poor unsuspecting wife-shopper. But
Where am I?
I have no idea how much I have already seen. A page with 16 or 20 items which I can checkout and then click on a ‘Next’ button to see the next set of items would have been so much clearer and easy to use. Without knowing how much I have seen and how many more is left, I don’t even know whether I should keep scrolling or whether I should give up. If there’s only another 10 items to checkout, I’ll continue browsing to checkout everything. But if there’s another 2000 items, I’d probably give up.
There’s no way to know that, when the page does ‘infinite-scrolling’.
How to Get Back to Where I was?
After scrolling through a countless number of items, what if I scroll back to the top for some reason? What if I refreshed the page? What if I want to look at the item that I saw a while ago? These are all not even possible when you are infinite-scrolling. You have to scroll back up all the way and find that item again. You have to scroll all the way down if you accidentally refresh that page.
Think about the User
I think the infinite scroll is a classic example of over engineering of a user experience. A classic case where a designer forgot all about user experience and just wanted to be fancy for the sake of their own vanity. Things like that are the bane of user interface design. The designer is so proud of something they did that they completely forget to get feedback from UX testers. Or even from actual unhappy users. The worse thing is, they probably actually spend more money on doing this, over the simple, easy-to-use traditional way.
Sometimes I Need to Reach the Bottom
This is the problem that I actually faced, and made me go on a rant on my blog. The menu I needed was at the bottom of the page. I had to scroll down to the bottom. Only, when I scrolled, the page just loaded more items and I had to scroll again. Then it loaded more items. After doing that a few more times, a brilliant idea struck me and I pressed the ‘End’ button – on a Mac, the end button takes you instantly to the bottom of the page. And surprise! Before I could move the mouse and click on my menu, the page loaded a bunch of items and the menu went back out of view. Not only I couldn’t click my button, the page loaded a ton of content that I wasn’t even interested in.
Making one server request for a page displaying 25 items, is often faster than 25 separate requests for each item. Significantly faster. In most implementations of infinite scrolling, the page makes more and more requests as you scroll. Also, the experience of waiting for a second and seeing 25 items, is better than the items loading one by one with a fraction of a second gap in between. So infinite scrolling is not only actually slower, it also amplifies it’s own slowness, by reminding the user often that there’s something loading.
What’s Better Then?
What’s better is the plain old pagination. Don’t fix what’s not broken!
Do I know how far along I am, browsing the search results? Yes! Because a list of page numbers on the bottom always show me which page I am on, and among the list of the ‘finite’ number of things on each page, I can easily get back to where I was.
I can scroll down and see the footer, use the footer menu if there is one. My browser doesn’t have to load a ton of content that’s not useful at all to me. I get to have a calm peaceful life.
Just do pagination if you’re showing me a catalog. Please. Thank you.