When jQuery scrolling sucks

Rob Conery wrote a post about how traditional paging on web pages sucks.  And, generally speaking, he’s right.  As he puts it:

“we know that people rarely go to pages 2- whatever and that when they do, they rarely come back to page 1. We have 3 seconds to capture a user’s attention on a new visit – that’s it. If you make them page they will leave, and it’s amazing how many applications still use this dated way of showing information.”

Though he doesn’t specify it, he’s obviously talking about (among other things), Google.  An entire industry exists (called “SEO”, which means “Search Engine Optimization” or as I like to say, means “SEarch snake Oil”) to help you get your web site/page to appear on the first page of a Google search, since the amount of traffic/sales that you can get by being on the first page is, well, really ridiculous compared to what you get if you are on, say, page two.  Since I’m lazy, I won’t link to anything here, but, well, you can Google it and find pretty solid real-world studies about it.  It’s fascinating/depressing to think about if you are a business trying to get your business to appear on page one.

Anyway, as a replacement, Rob talks about the ‘bottomless scrolling’ option, one that you can see on Twitter.  You go to a person’s Twitter page, and at the bottom, there is a “more” link that does some nifty AJAX type stuff, and the next series of Twitter entries appear.  And you keep clicking and get more entries.

This is all fine.  Except it also sucks, and in some cases, sucks more than traditional paging.

The first obvious point is that if the imagined end user isn’t going to go to Page 2, they aren’t going to want to click on the “More” link either.  There’s no end-user improvement to having the “More” link instead of having a “Page 2” link.

More importantly, in some cases, there’s an end-user degradation to having the “More” link.

Suppose someone sent me an email that said “Hey, Rob twitted about you, you should check it out.”  And though it isn’t critical to the point, suppose it was more than a week ago.

Given the ‘bottomless scrolling’ option, I would have to keep hitting that “More” link over and over and over to get to the relevant point.  If I had a paging option, I could center into the appropriate date range by entering in, say, ?page=10, and seeing the date range there, then, say ?page=47, or whatever, and very quickly find what I was looking for. 

So, when considering whether one should abandon paging, you should consider what the end user scenarios are.  If the end user scenario expects Page 1 to be the be all and end all of what they are looking for, then ‘bottomless scrolling’ might be the right thing to do (though you should also think about what if anything it actually gains you…I’m thinking nothing usually).  If the filter criteria of the search is something that an end user might be able to control, paging is still the right thing to do.

posted on Monday, January 11, 2010 10:22 PM Print
# re: When jQuery scrolling sucks
Sergio Pereira
1/12/2010 8:42 AM
There's an interesting difference, though. The usual implementation of bottomless scrolling never tells you how many more entries to get to the end of the pile.
It's easier to get someone to keep getting more items than to show him the discouraging information that you are looking at the first of a hundred of pages.
I guess it's a mind game.
# re: When jQuery scrolling sucks
1/12/2010 8:55 AM

But even if that is true (and I have no idea how one could test that), why is that a good thing?

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