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Should Pagination Be Left, Centered, or Right-Justified? Does it matter? Any usability studies?

We are redesigning our pagination to be more usable. In the process a question came up of where to position the pagination relative to the column: left-aligned, centered, or right-aligned. In all the reading I've done on pagination usability (never mind the advocates of infinite scroll), nobody seems to address the overall horizontal orientation.

The designer prefers left-aligned for aesthetics. I believe centered is more common and, therefore, more usable; I also believe it makes more sense. But I do see examples of left and right alignments.

Some Examples:

Left: YouTube, Bing, Yahoo

Center: Google, Apple, Digg, Amazon

Right: Hulu

As I review the examples of left- vs. center-aligned listed above, I can see no rhyme or reason as to how choices were made. So, I'm really curious if there are usability studies about this. If you give your opinion, please let me know what informs that opinion.

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I find it interesting that Google and YouTube do it differently, since they are the same company. –  tajmo Nov 10 '11 at 17:54
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if you notice Google has tried to keep the Youtube brand fairly separate (possibly for legal concerns), they didn't get the Google + bar like the other google main sites for example, and the name appears no where on the site, different brands. –  Ben Brocka Nov 10 '11 at 18:00
    
Good point, @BenBrocka. Hadn't noticed the complete separation, but that makes sense. –  tajmo Nov 10 '11 at 18:05
    
Does it actually matter? No clear consensus has emerged, which might be an indication that it doesn't. –  Alex Feinman Nov 10 '11 at 18:11
    
@AlexFeinman That's exactly what I'm asking. –  tajmo Nov 10 '11 at 18:28
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The visual treatment and general layout of the pagination matters more in my opinion since that is what will make people see it and understand how to use the pagination on your site.

In the same vein left or right alignment depends on the impact that has on surrounding elements and general consistency of the site. Do you have other similar controls? How are they placed?

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Exactly, pagination controls should go where they fit logically on a page, that isn't always going to be in the center, in the left or in the right. –  Ben Brocka Nov 10 '11 at 19:59
    
Ah, the classical economist answer: "it depends." Ha ha. Actually, you raise a fine point, @benbrocka. I find this to be true with submit buttons; why wouldn't it be true of pagination? –  tajmo Nov 10 '11 at 20:30
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@tajmo very true. As a good example, look at webcomics; pagination is usually huge and centered, as you're probably changing pages constantly, as there's one item per page. Things with lots of content per page usually cram the pagination controls off to the side and don't take up much space. –  Ben Brocka Nov 10 '11 at 20:37
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My preference is next page on the right, last page on the left, and page numbers in the middle. You can also put a "last" page button on the right and a "first" page button on the left if that applies to your needs.

Interestingly it's a real object that helps justify this preference for me, as the Kindle uses its left and right buttons for navigation. It does it slightly differently in that BOTH the left and right page buttons are on each side, but I noticed new users instinctively want to use the largest left button to go back and the largest right button to go forward.

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