Teaching an Old Dog New Mobile App Tricks

The Web seriously lags behind mobile-based design and needs to start catching up. For the past 20 years Web pages have been in a kind of stasis, relying on manic ADD-inducing page to page, link to link hopping. While connection speeds have been improving, browser technologies evolving, and user behaviors maturing, we’ve been complacent in accepting the website model as the height of design achievement.

Somewhere along the line we stopped challenging the standards for website design and experience. In the meantime, younger mobile app technologies found ways to adapt to slower loading, smaller screens, and greater user expectations. The result? Innovative and superior user experiences that are wow-worthy. It’s time to create a better Web experience by borrowing a page (or rather lack thereof) from mobile app designers and developers.

If we’re to embrace the elements that make mobile apps so engaging, the first step is to embrace pageless design. Websites were based on their print forefathers and organized with pages in mind. It was a good starting place. After all, it was what everyone knew and made the Web comprehensible. But now browser tech has advanced immeasurably, connection speeds are ever increasing, and most importantly, user experience is more and more informed by interaction with long-scrolling, pageless mobile apps. Sites like Pinterest and AirBnB take advantage of the infinite scroll. It’s time we get beyond our outmoded thoughts on page-to-page UX.

The page-to-page experience is disjunct; it creates delay, zaps attention spans, and encourages visitor abandonment. When the achievement of a user’s goal spans numerous pages, it’s nearly impossible to deliver a cohesive experience. Instead, users jump from page to page and must continually reorient themselves and reassess content before reaping any value from the page or experience. That’s asking a lot - especially of today’s harrowed visitor who has a dozen other options at his or her fingertips.

In contrast, infinite scroll offers a considerably smoother experience. Long-scroll pages don’t require a break in attention, and can act as a container for a complete narrative arc. Instead of randomly choosing pages they think will help them, users can journey toward a goal or outcome that meets their needs. The endless Pinterest pins and Facebook statuses are proof that infinite scroll is associated with some of the most engaging and popular user experiences on the web. In contrast to a multi-page website trying to please an endless set of goals and visitors, each long scroll page can have multiple storylines for different visitor types; z-axis animations (like drawers and flipforms) can uncover additional information for people who want to go deeper. Elegant and intuitive, when we cut down page count, and go long, we create deeper, more cohesive narrative experiences that take users on a journey of discovery that results in the outcome everyone is looking for.

Mobile apps figured this out early on. It’s time for web designers to bring these new tricks back to the web, and to continue to push the definition of what it means to be a website forward. We have done amazing work together, but we are not finished. Let’s create the next website together, and let’s start by rethinking what it means to deliver information page by page on the web.

 
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