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When there are a lot of search results they often are paginated. Most search engines I know show 10 results per page. I guess this was born out of an easy technical solution or habit. But I don't know if it is still valid or usable.

Why not 8, or 11? Is 10 an especially easy to remember amount? Or do 10 results fit nicely in two views (one times PageDown) of a page?

For example, I know Google changed the way Google Images work to continue to load new pages when scrolling instead of clicking to a next page. As far as I remember they did this because they noticed people checked far more results (say up to 15) as opposed to the normal/web search (1 to 3) before they were satisfied. Thus it would be good if you could easily see more than 10 results.

Another example. Some search results show a lot more. For example ticket systems, CRMs, email's inboxes, etc. The results fit on one line so it makes sense to make more use of the available space. Results can go from 20 to 50 to 100.

Currently I'm working on a website where you can search for photographers[1]. So we show of their photos. Each search result is quite high in pixel height. Meaning you have to scroll a lot more to get to the bottom of page 1 as opposed to Google. Would it be worth to have less results just because of this?

To sum it up:

  • Is there a reason why search results are often split by 10?
  • Are there rules for when to show more or less? (i.e. type of media, height, etc.)
  • Is there any research done on this topic?

I'm not specifically looking for only research references, I love educated guesses and smart thinking.

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In the case of Google I think two things happened; 10 results fits well with only 2 to 3 pages of scrolling on most devices, and it's now sort of an ingrained standard. I'm seeing infinite scrolling more and more when applicable. –  Ben Brocka Feb 5 '12 at 20:35
    
There is a nice article which explains pagination in respect to SEO and UX Reference –  Pratheep ch Feb 5 '12 at 20:38
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I just noticed, there is an older question from today that asks almost the same thing: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/16922/… –  Danny Varod Feb 5 '12 at 21:17
    
Specifically regarding your site, I would make the width sensitive to the browser's current window width (if the current width is large then displaying only 3 images per row is a waste of space). I would also reduce the padding between the images and their frames and slightly between photographer rows. I would either use the show more instead of pages or make the pages shorter so you don't need to scroll both ways (in page and between pages). You could use slightly smaller thumbs and have a large floating preview at the right of the list. –  Danny Varod Feb 7 '12 at 0:44
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8 Answers 8

What I noticed when I was working on search results is that you are likely to change the amount of results shown on the first page based on the chance that the right answer is among them.

Therefore, it's good to understand what kind of search it is. Is it to gain some understanding about a particular type of car? Maybe 20 pictures provide a good start but 50 are better. Or are you looking for 'a notebook' or maybe something very precise: a red A3 moleskin. For all these cases a different amount of results would be 'optimal'

Some insightful articles can be found on TwigKit's blog (search UI company).

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No.

The amount of results per page should depend on:

  1. The display size of each result - the smaller the result the more you should show per page e.g. from small to large: thumbnail, one line, multi line, large image, ...

  2. The window size - the larger the user's window is (or device's screen if in fullscreen mode) the more results you should show. Showing 10 results and leaving half the window unused is a very bad practice (which I regret I have seen).

  3. The ease of scrolling up/down vs. clicking on next/prev - it is usually easier to scroll up and down then to click on prev/next over and over. Scrolling up and down only requires clicking on the keyboard page up/down keys or up/down keys for small changes. Or, using a mouse - scrolling with the wheel. Clicking on prev/next, requires scrolling to the bottom, moving the pointer to the arrow, clicking on it and then repeating the entire process over and over.
    Both processes can be optimized:

    • Scrolling by adding a next/prev button between every N results (that jumps within page).
    • Prev/Next by adding accelerators (e.g. making page up/down keys turn page). Accelerators must be known to users and page must not go beyond window, otherwise user will need to scroll down and then user accelerator.
  4. Response time - if fetching results takes a noticeable amount of time regardless of number of results, bringing more results per page will save the user time. If fetching results takes a noticeable amount of time per result, but there is no constant time per page, then the less results per page, the faster it will seem to user.
    Ideally, both should take as little as possible and this shouldn't be a factor.

A good example of the ease of scrolling vs. paging is Google Images, where you can now see more results by scrolling down and clicking on "Show more results".

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I would put response time #1. Google did a bunch of tests on this and found that users wanted more results, but were very dissatisfied with the slower load time. They tested it by delaying 10-results pages by 400 milliseconds and got the same dissatisfaction as by showing 30-50 results per page. –  Kevin Burke Feb 7 '12 at 22:10
    
I didn't sort by priority, even though I should have. I think that the scrolling vs. paging interface should be number 1, you can load on demand either way (e.g. via load more button, next button, scroll event, ...). You can also use ajax-like technologies to add results as they arrive without limiting results to 10 per page. –  Danny Varod Feb 7 '12 at 23:43
    
Great answer! Perhaps add (5) Your Audience, power users tend to like more results at once, and (6) Performance as grabbing more results at once will have an impact here. –  Jeroen Feb 8 '12 at 16:32
    
@Jeroen performance is covered by response time, audience is important, however, this can not be determined automatically and should be handled by letting user customize defaults (and save their settings in their account or in a cookie. –  Danny Varod Feb 8 '12 at 18:54
    
@DannyVarod Ah you're right on the performance one. Not sure about the audience one, why would it be important to "determine automatically" what your audience is? If you have particular site you may know in advance if your user base will be power users or not. E.g. the SE sites typically draw power users and thus may show more results on a search than a site on origami patterns. –  Jeroen Feb 8 '12 at 21:17
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We use a base-10 system of numbers. As such, whenever grouping things, we tend to lump them into logical divisors of or multiples of 10.

So, that's likely the thinking (or intuition) behind showing 10 results or 20 results instead of 7 or 14.

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Some search pages offer a selection box, where you can decide yourself, how many results you want. With slow internet connection, and smartphone display, you might like another solution than on highspeed with a big monitor.

If possible, you may store the users preference, and offer it per default the next time.

Else, take Danny Varod's advices.

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Instead of trying to guess what the optimal number is, you can let the user specify a preference by placing a small dropdown list at the top of the grid where the user chooses a number. You might offer 10, 25, 50, All.

This way, the user can make a choice based on their screen size, their estimate of the likely number of results that will be returned, and the speed of their internet connection. And, you will be tailoring the presentation to the user's preferences.

For some sites, this preference is stored in the database and retrieved when the user logs in.

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For big sites the likely reason is response time. For example according to a blog post from 2006:

So, Marissa ran an experiment where Google increased the number of search results to thirty. Traffic and revenue from Google searchers in the experimental group dropped by 20%.

Ouch. Why? Why, when users had asked for this, did they seem to hate it?

After a bit of looking, Marissa explained that they found an uncontrolled variable. The page with 10 results took .4 seconds to generate. The page with 30 results took .9 seconds.

Half a second delay caused a 20% drop in traffic. Half a second delay killed user satisfaction.

This conclusion may be surprising -- people notice a half second delay? -- but we had a similar experience at Amazon.com. In A/B tests, we tried delaying the page in increments of 100 milliseconds and found that even very small delays would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue.

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We were just talking about websites that split up articles into different pages. This is something I consider totally not user-friendly.

In general, why have things on another page when they can be in the same page? Well, when relevant. And so, for search results or long lists of articles, we have started using a "Load More" button. A certain number of results shows and then the user clicks the button to load more results on the same page.

If someone is possibly interested in an article on page one and then they need to leave that page, it'll be more difficult for them to access what they want in the end. On the other hand, loading more results on the same page solves the loading time issue and keeps everything in one place.

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  1. Results are stacked in 10, as its the round-figure, where the next minimal could be 5 (which is far less on a page, and the real-estate space is not adequately utilized). If you had 20 still people would'nt complain while they scroll, but there is a research where "too may choices" create confusion in people's mind. So having a handful of items will be easy for human dissemination. 10 should be apt!

  2. When to show more or less? It depends on the context and subject. 10 should be apt or probably "clicking more" to find more of items also handles "handful" of items and approach in sets. Here the page or browser window defines the numbers and where the "More" button is placed.

  3. For your purpose, why do you need to arrange it vertically and have a vertical scrolling? I think if you can use up carousel alike patterns and move horizontally, the interaction will look affective and sleek. Since these are images-moving them horizontally just like swiping, will demand more aesthetics than the regular vertical formats.

Hope this helps!

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