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This article on pagination left me with mixed feelings.

  • Is pagination always a usability issue?

  • Should more sites utilise the 'endless page'?

  • Who's got it right? Twitter? Bing images? Someone else?

  • Is pagination a thing of the past?

There's commentary on the blog post but I'm interested to know what you folk think.

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8 Answers 8

Places where i like or would love infinite scroll: ->Google images results ->Google search results. ->Facebook/Twitter feeds when i am going through feeds. ->Question answer sites, blogs, articles, etc.

Places where I hate or would hate infinite scrolls: ->Facebook feeds when i have paused a video in between and now i face immense problem to find it again. ->If gmail inbox has infinite scroll things would get really messy for me. ->If books kind of interface have infinite scroll, nah 1000 pages with infinite scroll no.

But what I would rather love would an advanced scroll bar. Different uses will have diff requirement. With advanced I mean is that in case of Facebook feeds I have some color coding or may be whenever a video is paused it indicates on the scroll bar. And I can directly go there and watch all the videos. Better it can color code the scroll bar with places where I have links and wall and tags with my name and photos. Something similar to how chrome does when we Ctrl+F find something on a page.

Similarly in case of books I would like each page to be differently marked on the scroll bar, so that I can click and go to one particular page (may be with numbers also) and as I scroll down the number becomes smaller. When I hover on a location of scroll bar it shows me magnified page number.

If Gmail inbox implements infinite scroll then the scroll bar must have markers with date and time of received mail so that I can go to a particular location easily.

Something about Facebook timeline, they have beautifully implemented infinite scroll with a year base scrolling option on the right.

Just my opinion.

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Google Images recently redesigned their system. No more pagination. I was pretty surprised actually. (No more Goooooooooooogle) The truth is that pagination almost never achieves the goal intended. People just don't get to page 6 of any grid. However, It's often the easiest thing to implement. ExtJS has a nice buffered grid widget which makes it easier to get rid of pagination.

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Nice link. I like what Google have done too and I'm amazed at how quickly the content loads. I haven't tested it on a slow connection but buffered rendering seems like a great solution. –  Rob Aug 10 '10 at 7:51
    
The link doesn't work anymore :( –  Anna Rouben Aug 14 '12 at 19:23
    
I updated the link...they moved it. –  Glen Lipka Aug 27 '12 at 17:51

I personally like the approach of Google reader. if you want more items, scroll down, and your browser will load more content into the item list.

Some good thoughts on Pagination are written here

http://www.goodusability.co.uk/2009/01/easy-as-123/

And if you want to use pagination in your web projects then use

An Accessible Pagination Pattern

http://mikewest.org/2010/02/an-accessible-pagination-pattern

Some more good links on Pagination

http://www.designvsart.com/blog/2008/06/04/a-guide-to-perfect-pagination/

http://usabilitythoughts.com/usable-pagination.html

http://totalusability.posterous.com/pagination-controls

http://www.zu.com/live/2010/02/ideas/creative/points-on-usability-eliminate-pagination/

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Pros:

  1. Can be more usable for people using mouse/keyboard

  2. Saves a bit of time clicking to specific pages and waiting for reload

  3. Works 'smoother'

  4. Makes sense for very long data sets where there are many items of similar nature within the data

Cons:

  1. Non bookmarkable? How do I send a URL to someone of my 3rd scroll on Google image search? I can do that with paginated pages

  2. Accessibility issues around updating the content?

  3. Inability to get to footer of the page?

  4. Won't work on all mobile phones as well due to crappy JS support so cross platform experience will be degraded

Hope this helps.

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If you're handling large amounts of data, and allowing the user to reorganize and filter by criteria, in the user studies we conducted users preferred pagination.

It's being able to pick something from the "center" where they can guess approximately where it is, and the at-a-glance idea of the amount of data being returned.

Note: Tests were run in 2009 with an end-user group of 27 users of the "old desk-top ap" who were very familiar with the data and tech savvy.

We've also had poor results on accessibility testing with the endless scrolling that isn't controlled by a specific user action like the Twitter "show more" when tested by an out-of-house disability consultant.

If it's not data, but an article that is a little lengthy, I agree that pagination is totally unnecessary, but that's personal opinion, not test data.

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"users of the 'old desk-top ap'" -- but wouldn't that be a key variable here? In the past when I've developed web apps for groups that had spend years of their lives on the old desktop apps, it really didn't matter what we built, as it was always going to be different than their mainframe/desktop app they've memorized and hate to see changed in any way. –  DA01 Aug 9 '10 at 14:39
    
DA, I agree, that's why I noted the user group. I've had the same experience with desk top users. I don't think this invalidates the concept, just that the study was skewed and be used to validate the concept. Would love to see test results with a broader group, though it should include assistive technology users for me to be totally accepting of the final data. –  Susan R Aug 9 '10 at 19:51
    
Darn - my apologies - that's " and Can't be used to validate..." –  Susan R Aug 9 '10 at 19:52

Is pagination always a usability issue?

Hmm...well, it's always a concern.

Should more sites utilise the 'endless page'?

Yes. But certainly not all of them.

Who's got it right? Twitter? Bing images? Someone else? Is pagination a thing of the past?

I think it's highly dependent on context. Infinite scroll makes particular sense in a number of cases:

  • When there isn't enough records for more than 2 paginated views to begin with.

  • When the goal of searching is to find one specific item (such as Bing/Google image searching)

  • When it's likely that the end-user would prefer a 'see all' option anyways.

I still think there's room for pagination. That said, the infinite scroll should be considered as an option these days as well.

Another option that I don't think is always considered is "would it make sense just to list them all in the first place?"

Often pagination isn't done for any particular performance nor usability reason and is just implemented out of habit.

(As an aside, I'd love to see links/references to research on infinite scroll usability.)

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Paging through lists or tables has always struck me as an awkward pre-GUI throwback necessitated by the limited bandwidth of the early web. Scrolling is generally superior to paging, providing more convenience, flexibility, and feedback to the user; plus it’s more standardized. I generally recommend loading all of a list into a page or scrollable pane whenever bandwidth allows, rather than using paging.

Endless scrolling tries to have it both ways, handling the bandwidth problem while trying to have some of the advantages of scrolling. However, while endless scrolling solves some of the weakness of paging relative to scrolling, it introduces new problems, so I’m not sure it’s a better alternative.

  • Breaks scrollbar expectations. The biggest problem is that endless scrolling looks like a normal scrollbar, but doesn’t act like it. A proliferation of endless scrolling ruins scrollbars for normal use. For example, users won’t know when they can and can’t estimate total content from the scrollbar’s appearance.

  • Breaks position estimation. If users want to go back to a previously seen item, it’s difficult to know how far back to scroll since the corresponding position of the scrollbar slider changes as new content is loaded. With normal scrollbars, things scrolled ¼ from the top stay ¼ from the top. With paging, things on Page 4 stay on Page 4.

  • User limited to moving a fixed block of items ahead. If the user knows approximately where the desired list item is in the list (e.g., remembers from a previous visit), the user is nonetheless compelled to navigate to it by incrementally and slowing adding new items to the bottom of the list through continuous scroll-downs. Normal scrolling allows the user to randomly access any point on the list almost instantly. Paging generally allows some broader and more flexible access (e.g., jump to the end) than endless scrolling.

  • Content lost when navigating away. When the user navigates back to an endless scrolling page, typically content reloads from the beginning, resulting in users losing their place in the list. When one navigates back to a paged list or normally scrolling list, they are return to the point in the list where they left.

I believe we need a separate control for endless or virtually endless lists. Such a control could leverage interaction conventions from the normal scrollbar, but should appear distinct from it. It should provide some reference to location in the list (e.g., timestamp, coordinates, relevance rating) to support position estimation. It should allow jumps of arbitrary size to other positions, and preserve the current position when the user navigates to a different page. Maps are one place I’d like to see such a control developed, where scrolling is truly infinite (or circular, really).

However, I don’t see it as a particularly urgent need. With few exceptions (such as maps), endless paging/scrolling is sign of a bad design. If you have so much content that you can’t load it all at once in a normally scrolling list, then maybe you’re giving the user too much content. You’re expecting too much work from them to scroll and scan through all that. You need a way to better organize or filter the content than dumping it into a humungous list and let the user manually and tediously sift through it all.

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I agree with a lot of what you've said, to a point. I've worked some enterprise apps that return lists of all the equipment at locations, and dealing with many hundreds of results returned in some cases. Chunking is ultra important can often only be filtered so far. Then my choice always ends up being pagination with legends that show how many pages, allow them to choose how many lines to display, allow jump to line #, etc. Yes, an alternative to both could be the solution, but I haven't seen one that works in these situations yet. –  Susan R Aug 9 '10 at 13:56
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You may be doing the best you can with your content and users. However, if each item is 1-3 lines of text, then a single large scrolling (non-endless) pane can generally handle 100’s of items without usability or bandwidth problems. Also, I wouldn’t necessarily object to a design where users occasionally have to skim through 100’s of items. To me, “virtually endless” lists are like Google search results –like a million items. –  Michael Zuschlag Aug 9 '10 at 19:45

I am not sure if it would be a good idea to exchange one extreme with another; it's not about pagination or no pagination.

This new trend is a response to the old, overturned 'no-scrolling'-rule and as such I think it's a good thing as it brings more options and flexibility into design.

But for me it's not a question of pagination being dead, but rather thinking about when pagination makes sense and which option would be the perfect solution for your design.

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Agreed - let's make 'pagination by default' a thing of the past. –  Rob Aug 9 '10 at 14:14