Infinite scrolling has been growing in popularity with various forms being utilized on a variety of sites.
While there are pros and cons from both a technical and usability perspective, and it hasn’t worked for everyone, in the right situation it can be a good fit.
Social sites use infinite scrolling as a way to offer a never-ending stream of new content, and it has appeal for sites that want to offer a seamless browsing experience for large groups of items. Publishers are starting to use it more often too on their home and channel pages.
Don’t Forget SEO
In reviewing infinite scroll implementations on a number of sites, one thing I’ve noticed is that not all of them offer a crawler-accessible path to the deeper content. This creates an obstacle for SEO.
Essentially you want to build the infinite scroll functionality on top of simple, paginated archive pages. This type of progressive enhancement is good for usability as well as SEO. It allows the content to be accessible within the main framework of the site and better integrated into the internal link graph.
If desired (and as appropriate) pages 2+ can be given a “noindex,follow” robots meta tag to prevent the paginated results pages from being indexed, while still allowing the links on them to be crawled and pass value. Or rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags can be experimented with.
Mashable is a Good Example
The latest Mashable design, which makes heavy use of infinite scrolling, offers a good example of how to ensure that all site content is still easily accessible to crawlers.
This creates a simple, easy jumping off point to all the content pages on the site.
The concept is essentially the same thing as a comprehensive HTML sitemap, the difference being the links are accessible through a module on the home and channel pages instead of just a footer link.
This approach, and organizing the archives by date, is a good fit for a news site. In other cases providing paginated, static pages directly within each site section, or organizing the site-wide archive by topic instead of date, may be a better fit.
The bottom line: choose whatever approach makes the most sense for your site, but make sure you are providing easy crawler access and sufficient internal link support to all of your content pages.