Pagination vs. Infinite Scroll

Pagination vs. Infinite Scroll

A common trend in web design is to avoid paginating blogs. Instead, designers often opt for an infinite scroll design or a button that loads more content in batches. 

For a publisher looking to revamp their website, it can be tempting to choose one of these alternatives to pagination. But, are they necessarily a better choice?

Using either a “load more” button or infinite scroll has its advantages, but so does pagination. We’re going to explain the pros and cons of each type of UX. This way you can choose what works best for your audience and content.

Choosing the Right Content Format

Every website’s content is unique, but the purpose of it is generally the same. Drive engagement, boost SERPs, and add value to the user experience. The tricky part is deciding on the browsing experience that best matches your content and audience. If you get it wrong, you could be throwing away opportunities for engagement.

The type of content that you post and its frequency will determine what display format is best. 

Infinite scroll and pagination sit at different ends of the content spectrum. This makes them relatively easy to assign to different types of publishers. But the “load more” button sits somewhere in the middle.

Pagination

Paginating pages involves separating content into different pages, usually with a set number of items per page. This format requires input from the user to click through different pages of content either one by one or to skip ahead pages.

It is widely used across different types of sites such as eCommerce websites and informational blogs because it allows users to quickly skip through content and find what they are looking for, faster. Equally, it helps them keep track of items of interest located on a certain page when searching an entire catalog.

While it is a very organized and easy-to-navigate format, there are some downsides.  

Pagination generally requires users to know, or at least have an understanding of what they are looking for. Depending on the number of results served—be they products within a category or blog posts—it may require filter options to help users find what they want. This process adds more clicks and interactions before the user gets to where they want to be. 

Conversely, it also presents content or products very clearly. In the same way as a long blog post can be intimidating with blocks of text, a long stream of content can also be an overwhelming experience to find what you are looking for. Pagination always gives you a page number to return to.

If a user knows what they are looking for, pagination tends to improve conversion because it enables logical navigation. This logic also enables better crawling of your content which can benefit SERP.

One big consideration is pagination on mobile devices. The mobile experience tends to be a bit cumbersome because it involves scrolling through content and clicking to view different pages. The downside is that a user will inevitably have to scroll a long way to view the numbered buttons and switch between pages. It adds up to a time-consuming process that is not favored by users browsing on mobile devices.

Infinite Scroll

This method of content organization allows users to view an infinite amount of content while staying on the same page of a website. Upon reaching the bottom of the page, it will automatically populate another batch of content without requiring the user to click.

You will recognize this method from any Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed, and it is also commonly found on content-heavy websites such as The New York Times.

From a development perspective, it allows for a “lazy loading” style of content meaning that a single web page can deliver vast amounts of content quickly because it loads in batches.

The problem with infinite scrolling is that it relies on high volumes of content that most websites simply will not have. Because it is generally reserved for sites with large quantities of content, users engage with it in much the same way as a social media feed – endless scrolling and minimal engagement. 

The risk you take in using infinite scroll with a small amount of content is that users can quickly disengage. When they reach the end faster than expected, it is unlikely they will scroll back up to see what they have missed. Equally, this applies to a large volume of content where the user is unlikely to find something of interest again after scrolling past it.

There are some advantages too. The majority of users are incredibly familiar with this type of interactivity thanks to social media streams. It is particularly well suited for mobile devices whose smaller screens make content appear even more abundant. 

If you want to encourage users to discover more content, it is hands down the best option. Although, we suggest including a way to save items without clicking on them. It is a function you will no doubt already love, thanks to Pinterest. 

Load More Pagination

This form of pagination has become very popular because it takes the best characteristics of pagination and infinite scroll. It combines them to create a format that is suitable for arguably any type of content and device.

Load more pagination is like a more interactive version of infinite scrolling. It can display your entire body of content on a single page. However, it does so by encouraging the user to interact and click a “load more” button once they reach the end of a content batch. 

How much this interaction is detrimental to the user experience is subjective.

As a testament to the success of load more pagination, Google has now adopted it for mobile devices and in Google Image search across all devices. 

Load more pagination can be applied successfully to e-commerce sites that receive large volumes of mobile traffic as it is a more intuitive process and reduces the need for additional page loads. 

How to Add Infinite Scroll or Load More Pagination to WordPress

Most WordPress sites will offer pagination as a default for structuring content. This is because pagination applies to the broadest range of content and it promotes logical navigation, albeit with more clicks. 

Adding infinite scroll or load more pagination to your WordPress site can be done using two methods. 

You can use a plugin such as Jetpack or Catch Infinite Scroll. Just be aware that many plugins that provide infinite scroll capability can require a theme that allows for it.

The second option is to recruit a developer to build custom code, likely using Ajax Load More, which will also require restructuring your site organization. And if you’re looking for a web developer, we have a pretty good recommendation.

What Content Structure Is Best?

Surprise, surprise, the best content structure for your website depends on what content you provide or create. 

For many publishers who manage blogs, pagination remains a great option because it is familiar and easy to navigate. A simple way to improve the functionality of pagination is to include search functionality. This way users can find what they are looking for quickly. 

To offer a better mobile experience, you can create a mobile-specific version of your site that instead uses load more pagination. It may not be for everyone, but if the majority of your traffic is from mobile, it’s certainly worth considering. 

If you are churning out content daily, infinite scroll is a great option. It allows users to browse and discover content with minimal effort. This can drive both engagement and time on the page.

Written by the Team at Pixel Jar

We hope you got something useful out of that post. If you'd like to read more we have an active blog with topics across the spectrum of website development. If you're researching information for a project we'd love to talk to you about it.

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