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I've heard some people say that if you have a long document you should break it into relatively short pages. Others (including the curmudgeon Jakob Nielsen) say that pagination is common practice but bad usability.

I am presently wondering if I should de-paginate my website, which exists primarily as a showcase of writing; the shortest works fit on a page and the longest works are the length of a small book. At present all the longest works, and many of the medium-sized works, are paginated.

Which offers better usability: pagination or non-pagination? If the answer is "pagination is sometimes better usability", when is pagination or non-pagination better? You can see my site at http://JonathansCorner.com, and I am presently contemplating depaginating it, cutting the "breadcrumbs and navigation" paragraph to just be breadcrumbs at the top, and trying to simplify. I would welcome advice on whether pagination in particular helps or hurts on my site, and if it hurts, whether it should be refactored into better pagination, or refactored out so that when you click a link, you get the whole logical document in one page immediately.

Thanks,

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I think this is possible a duplicate question of this one: Is scrolling better than clicking to reveal more content?. Do that question give you some useful info, or are you after something slightly different? –  JonW Mar 15 '13 at 8:51
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The real issue isn't whether to paginate or not, it is whether your pagination is arbitary or based on the context of content. –  JamesRyan Mar 15 '13 at 10:56
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Yes, I imagine it is quite annoying to a user who starts reading a piece of work but can't –  JonW Mar 15 '13 at 11:39
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carry on reading in the same place, and have to jump to the next page to continue where they left off. –  JonW Mar 15 '13 at 11:39
    
@all, thank you very much; I (attempted to) convert JonathansCorner.com from pagination to scrolling, a decision which was made on a misguided usability principle that said, "If you are trying to be as good as possible, paginate so people don't have to scroll through more than ____ screenfuls per page at __x____ resolution." Thanks for all your comments. –  JonathanHayward Mar 18 '13 at 12:45
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4 Answers

SURL did some research back in 2003 on this, in an article called "The Impact of Paging vs. Scrolling on Reading Online Text Passages"

The findings from this study show that participants using the paging condition took significantly longer to read the passages than either the full or scrolling conditions. Participants also showed no significant differences in their ability to answer comprehension questions correctly, nor in their perceptions or satisfaction of the reading conditions.

...

However, several users commented that they were more accustomed to scrolling when reading documents on the web. It may be that since participants had more exposure to scrolling they were able to read through the documents more quickly using that mode of navigation. Participants stated that they found the Paging condition to be "too broken up," and that they had to "go back and forth" quite a bit to search for information. It is possible then, that for searching as well, viewing more of the document on a single screen facilitated easier scanning.

Source:http://usabilitynews.org/the-impact-of-paging-vs-scrolling-on-reading-online-text-passages/

SURL also did a study on pagination or scrolling for presenting search results, back in 2002:

What this suggests to us is that participants favored and performed best on layouts with both reduced paging and scrolling. However, when forced to pick between the two, they clearly preferred paging, even though participants using the ten-link condition took the most time to find the correct information.

Source: http://usabilitynews.org/paging-vs-scrolling-looking-for-the-best-way-to-present-search-results/

This now brings us onto infinite/endless scrolling. There doesn't seem to be definitive research that gives guidance on this right now (if anyone knows of anything, or plans to conduct any research, I would be very interested in this).

One interesting Case Study is what Etsy did. The key points I took from that case study were:

  1. Fewer result items clicked or “favourited”;
  2. while users didn’t buy fewer items overall, “they just stopped using search to find these items.”
  3. Engagement did not change with faster or slower results;

The fact search was used left does seem a tad worrying. In hindsight, their thoughts were

To not test infinite scroll, but to test the assumptions that you believe infinite scroll would solve (their case being more results per page, faster results);

Source: http://danwin.com/2013/01/infinite-scroll-fail-etsy/

At the time of writing this, here is what search engines are doing:

  1. Google web is paginating
  2. Google images is infinite scrolling (with an eventual show more button)
  3. Bing web (desktop) is paginating
  4. Bing images is endless scrolling
  5. Bing web (mobile) is infinite scrolling
  6. Duckduckgo is infinite scrolling

I personally would eer on the side of caution, based on where it is being used right now, and the case study, until either I or a third party could do extensive research on it. It does seem to lend well to the news feed context, like Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter.

It also seems to lend well to browsing a big set of images. Looking at pictures is perhaps less taxing, and quicker to scan to form an opinion on each item?

What pagination does give you over endless scrolling is a reference as to where you are; "I got up to page 4".

Edit:

Pagination is a necessary evil when you have too many items to easily show them all on one screen. Linear content flows—such as articles like this—should almost never be broken up into multiple screens. It’s better to show the full article on one long screen than to inflict the pain of additional steps on users when all they want to do is read an article, and thus stay within that one item.

Where pagination comes in handy is for listings, such as e-commerce category pages, search engine results pages (SERP), article archives, and photo galleries. Here, a user’s goal is not to peruse the full list, but rather to find a specific item and click through to that destination page.

Assuming that you can prioritize the list items, users are likely to find what they want close to the top. To focus users’ attention and improve response time, you can start by showing a fairly short list, and then offer pagination options for progressing further down the list if needed.

Source: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/item-list-view-all/

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There are some good links here, but I think the use-case is slightly different between pagination of a single article (or piece of writing that the OP has for his situation) compared with pagination of lists of results. –  JonW Mar 15 '13 at 11:38
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Pagination is intented to show more ads.

Having an article split in 6 pages harms printing.

What I find the most annoying in split articles is searching. When I want to search for a word in an article, if the article is split in 6 pages I have to do my search 6 times. Bad usability.

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I would not say pagination is for showing more adverts. Conversely, you can display different adverts as a user makes their way down the page. jQuery Waypoints has an implementation called 'Scroll Analytics' which can give you a hook into a users position: imakewebthings.com/jquery-waypoints/examples/scroll-analytics –  Craig Woollard Apr 3 '13 at 13:54
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When each page represents some meaningful chunk, such as list of items starting with certain letter(s) or a certain chapter/section of a document etc., then pagination is better. If the page does not have any meaning, such as numbered pages of a long list, then (infinite) scroll is better.

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I find pagination in most cases is intensely annoying but an evil we sometimes tolerate due to advertizing pressures. But if you can get around those financial pressures I think a long scrolling page is the way to go.

Historically, page load times may have been a factor. If you pushed too much content the user may have to wait too long or pay too much (on networks charged by the bandwidth used.) Both factors are mostly irrelevant now. In any case, content can be loaded into the same single page dynamically (in the background) if slow load times are a concern.

Single pages save the user the annoyance of clicking as well as provide the ability of easy back-n-forth comparisons by scrolling. More context for what he's reading.

If you have an existing website with a Print / Single-Page option (most News / Magazine type sites do this) check the click rates and it might reveal a lot about this.

One counterexample is cases where you perhaps do not want to give users too much of a chance to compare. Say, you are an e-seller trying to nudge the user towards a combo-deal on the first page? (e.g. An Orbitz / Expedia kind of Hotel + Car + Flight bundle?) In such cases the painful-to-click might be enough of a barrier to corral people towards an option on Page#1. (Note this can sometimes badly backfire. Users can vote with their feet too!)

A somewhat confusing case-study is Google. It's search is still progressive, paginated clicks. OTOH, Google Image Search etc. have adopted an unpaginated continuous Scroll Model.

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