Since sites like Pinterest pioneered “infinite scrolling” in which content is automatically loaded to the page as the user scrolls down, some have applied this concept to forum software. In effect, this approach can turn a thread into a really, really long page. We disagree with this approach for several reasons. Here are five of them:
1. Big tasks are more difficult for users to accomplish
Compared to scrolling through a set of images or list of status updates on Facebook, reading a forum thread requires more brain power. It is well known that accomplishing a series of short tasks fuels motivation better than a big, amorphous goal. Reading a forum thread requires effort (at least compared to browsing photos), so it makes sense to break the task into discrete mini-tasks. A thread with hundreds of posts can be very daunting but dividing the thread into smaller pieces allows the reader to gather momentum as he or she gets caught up. We opine that a thread without pages is like a book without chapters.
2. Browser’s back button becomes unpredictable
An infinitely scrolled page can be problematic when the user leaves the page and then hits the back button on his or her browser. The browser is likely to become confused as to where the user left off. This problem especially affects mobile devices. Imagine the pain induced by re-loading and re-scrolling an entire set of results just to get back to a certain point.
3. Difficult to locate, link, and crawl content
When a user is trying to locate a particular post or send a URL linking to a certain page, the ability to jump to a specific point becomes indispensable. Same goes for search engines crawling the site. And, like #2 above, there are implications for mobile devices as well: reloading or scrolling through an entire set of results just to get to a certain point quickly proves frustrating.
4. Footer content becomes impossible to reach
5. Users don’t demand it
When it comes to forum content, users recognize that infinite scrolling might solve some problems caused by pagination (e.g., lag time to open the next page) but it produces new problems such as those outlined above.