New isn’t always better. When working to improve a fundamental and long standing concept, it’s a good idea to take into account what you’ll lose by switching out for the updated version. In this case, I’m talking about going from traditional pagination to auto paging.
What is Auto paging?
A typical blog will have multiple pages of posts. They are broken up this way to keep you from needing to load a giant page of every post the blog has ever had. You’ll usually find a list of page numbers on the bottom so you can navigate through to previous posts.
Auto paging does this differently. Instead of clicking a link to load a new page, it appends all of the next page onto the bottom of the current page. Usually this is done by scrolling down, triggering the site to load the next page before you get to the bottom of the one you’re viewing. It’s automatic, and never requires you to change to a new page.
Auto paging is very popular on Tumblr, and can also be seen on the feed and wall of your Facebook account. Scrolling down the page loads more content onto the existing page, simply lengthening the original page instead of clicking through to a new one.
My beef with auto paging.
Auto paging is a nice feature, but it’s not one I’m interested in. The biggest reason is because of the performance issues the visitor runs into when they are looking through the content. As you scroll down the endless page, your browser and computer are trying to keep up with the growing weight of that page. More and more content is loaded, and for photo blogs this can quickly get very heavy.
Recently I went through a multipage photo blog that featured auto paging. Since there was no way around it, I was forced to use it. As I scrolled through the endlessly loading pages, I noticed my browser was very unhappy about the situation. The images were counting up pretty quickly and Chrome was having a hard time keeping up. I eventually had to close the browser due to the sluggishness the page was causing.
The resource hogging is only part of the problem. Since pages are loaded automatically into each other, you’re unable to go directly to the page you want. In this case, I wasn’t able to go back to the page I had to stop on on so instead I never went back to the site at all.
Occasionally, I’ll surf through a blog and make note of the last page I was on. I’ll come back to it later and continue from there. With auto paging, I can’t because there is no page to come back to. I have to start over at the beginning and wait to load everything I’ve already seen. If I was on the site for a while, this could be a tremendous amount of content to load all over again. Typically, I never return to sites like that.
Auto paging can be used effectively but if you have a lot of content to go through (such as the archive section of a blog), you run the risk of causing problems for your visitors. Sure, auto paging looks nice but it isn’t always needed. Remember, one of the primary reasons to use pagination is so you don’t have a giant page full of content.
Personally, I prefer standard pagination. Give me the links to pages and let me click them. I’m not so lazy that I can’t click a link to load the next page, and I would much rather be able to do that so I can get to whatever page I want. Plus, I won’t end up with a browser going through hysterics because it has 40 pages of content on one page.