One-Page Wonder: Infinite Scroll
Infinite scroll is becoming another option for publishers' sites.
A readerâs next step is less defined online. They may stick with you, but itâs more likely theyâll leave.
Some publishers are using infinite scroll to seamlessly introduce that next story, thoughâtheyâre turning the page for you.
âNews sites in particular have this bottom-of-the-article problem,â says Zach Seward, a senior editor at Quartz.Â Seward was one of the creators behind the siteâs simplistic design that incorporates infinite scroll. âSome just create a dead-end and thereâs nothing to do there; others create a paralysis of choice by providing so many links that you donât know what to do.â
Seward says they werenât sure if it would workâthey were prepared to reevaluate it after six monthsâbut itâs turned out to be the dominant way people use the site.
The same has been true for Mashable, which redesigned its site in December to incorporate infinite scroll. Pageviews are up 26 percent since the change, while bounce rates have declined 20 percent across the board.
âBounce rate was one metric we really focused on with this redesign,â says Robyn Peterson, CTO of Mashable. âThe way to reduce that is to make sure the user has the right content put in front of them, but also enough opportunities and enough content that theyâll have a selection that makes sense to them.â
Quartz and Mashable are using the same toolâinfinite scrollâtoward a similar endâincreasing engagementâbut each are using it differently.
Every Page Is a Homepage
In line with the rest of its unobtrusive, device-agnostic design, Quartz displays a continuous list of 24 (it just seems infinite) full text stories in its main column. Thumbnail previews are kept in a separate, smaller column, while a more traditional dropdown navigation bar can be accessed on top.
The use trends differ on desktop, tablet and mobile platforms, but the approach is always the same: Feed story after storyâthe bottom of one is the top of the next. Each story is its own homepage; the homepage is just the most recent story.
Conversely, Mashableâs new homepage and specific topic landing pages have a distinct separation from content. Theyâre portals. Borrowing from the brandâs overwhelming social success, they emphasize images in a three-column design.
âWhen we share in a photo-heavy way, we see 8-times as much engagement by our users on social networks,â Peterson says. âWhen we started experimenting with becoming more photo-heavy across the site, we saw much more engagement.â
Like Quartz, however, Mashable has turned each story into its own homepage. Instead of a footer, users are presented with the most relevant topic page.
Whatever the theory, infinite scroll is leading to more engagement for each site. Both Seward and Peterson say itâs not a solution in itself though. It has to compliment an overall design philosophy.
âWeâre trying to get the site out of the userâs way,â Peterson says. âWe want to just allow them to browse as deeply as they want, however they want. If itâs by clicking, great; if itâs by scrolling, now that works too.â