6 June 2020

Pagination or endless scrolling: what to choose?

When a large data set has to be demonstrated within a single web page, developers or site owners usually have to choose between two main ways of presenting such data: the content will either be automatically loaded for vertical scrolling or it will be automatically divided into several smaller pages. Which approach in web design to prefer?

The decision on how a large amount of data will be presented to users of the site affects both the overall usability of the site and SEO indicators. Therefore, it is important to pay enough attention to this issue, for which it is useful to compare the main advantages and disadvantages of each of the 2 named approaches.

Endless scrolling
Although this approach to representing a massive stream of content has been used relatively recently (when compared with pagination), users already know it well thanks to its active use on social networks and on sites with a predominance of visual content. With endless scrolling, users are first shown a limited portion of the content, and then, as the page scrolls down, the following portions of content are shown.

Due to the fact that new data is displayed without reloading the page, the transition from one portion of content to another is smooth and therefore almost invisible to the user. As a result, the user sees several pieces of content as one single large page.

Infinite scrolling is very good for increasing the involvement of users in the study of site content, in many cases it is also more convenient for users, since it is easier and faster to rotate the mouse wheel than to search and click on the desired link to switch to the next page. In addition, the advantage of endless scrolling can be called its almost perfect “compatibility” with touch mobile gadgets.

With its advantages, endless scrolling is still not without drawbacks. So, first of all, the minuses of the approach relate to the issue of determining the position of a particular object in the general content stream: if you close the page, then at subsequent loading to search for the object of interest, the user will have to perform all scrolling first, which can be time consuming and inconvenient.

Another drawback is the inability to “get” to the footer of the page. Since the data is loaded continuously, the lower part of the site, where additional information about the site is often posted, constantly “eludes” the user. Accordingly, the information that is published in the footer, the user can not receive. However, it is worth noting that the problem is completely solved by “sticking” the footer to the bottom of the page or even placing information from the footer in another area of ​​the page.

The third major minus of infinite scrolling is a decrease in page performance and increased consumption of device resources (usually in the case of mobile devices). With endless scrolling, data is loaded on the same page and at some point the amount becomes so large that the device’s browser requires significantly more processing time than when loading a regular page. As a result, the site begins to significantly “slow down”, and this provokes an increase in the bounce rate.

Pagination on the site
Pagination is a classic way of breaking content into pages in web design. With pagination, each page generates its own URL, and the content is loaded when the target action is performed, for example, clicking on the “Next” button or on the page ordinal number. A typical example of using pagination is a pagination of product categories in online stores.

Pagination has several important advantages at once. Firstly, this approach gives a good conversion in cases where site users are interested in studying individual data objects, and not the entire content as a whole. Secondly, it provides users with a sense of control over the process: at any time, users of the site can see at what stage they are studying the information, can estimate the total amount of data and can fix the exact page number if necessary, if the study needs to be temporarily interrupted.

If we talk about the disadvantages of pagination for presenting a large flow of data on the site, then the main among them is the need to perform additional actions, because to navigate between pages, the user must first find the target link, then click on it, and then wait until the desired page loads. By the way, a long wait for pages to load can also be considered a drawback of the pagination method.

From the point of view of SEO, a serious minus of pagination can be, among other things, duplication of content: on the pages of pagination, usually only part of the content changes, which leads to the appearance of partial takes.