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I'm working on a site that has several widgets with pagination. My design allows for me to make the current page persist across requests if I want it to for each individual widget.

So, if I'm on page 7 with Widget 1 and then I switch to a different area of the site and then come back I would still be on page 7.

Would this be considered good usability or bad? I have had some users complain that when they go back to a previous page they don't like that their page index has been reset back to 1.

My only concern is that some users may be confused when they browse back to a page after some time and not realize they are still on a different page other than the first page.

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Could you add a screen shot? –  Matt Rockwell Jul 28 '11 at 18:02
    
@Matt, I don't think I'm able to until our product fully launches. However, if you want an example of what the widgets are then just consider iGoogle's widgets. The pagination control is of the fashion: [1]...[44][45][46]...[999] –  Marcus Jul 28 '11 at 18:05
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5 Answers

If you are asking this question it means that somehow the persistence in your case adds a value.
Just remember to implement it correctly2&3 and gracefully1:

  1. a reset must be readily accessible (back to first page?)
  2. the persistence will last for a short session (maybe using a 24h expiration cookie)
  3. bookmarking must be thought-out (for example the title could dynamically change for each page)

If you don't intent to do it the right way better keep the default behaviour which is expected.

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Honestly, if I'd taken the trouble to page through to page 100 for example, and it took me back to page 1 and the only way to get through to page 100 again was to keep going through them one at a time like this NetVibes iGoogle widgets site then I would be tearing my hair out, screaming at the wall and certainly going elsewhere.

Fortunately (if I were interested) I see that on that particular site I can edit the URL, but personally, I think any site that shows a pagination control with 4000 single step pages is just utterly daft. (Yes there is a search box)

So definitely don't follow that example!

Your case sounds less extensive?

Taking Google search as another example, it allows you to go up to 9 or 10 pages forwards or backwards in a single jump. If I search for something else and then search for my original term then I'd be reasonably happy for it to start showing results from page 1 again. If I want to, I can get to page 7 very easily.

But a method that might seem smarter is to put you back at page 1 where most people would expect to be, but with a message that says 'You last visited page X in these results'. And link to page X obviously! That way I don't even have to remember I was on page 7 of the results at all. I invariably forget which page of the results I found something on previously.

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I agree 100% with this, but I'll also note that persistence should always be maintained if the user clicks the back button... even if they've gone to another area of the site and then come back. Nothing is more disorienting that clicking back and NOT being returned to the exact same view you left. –  Daniel Newman Jul 28 '11 at 20:17
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Yep - agreed - back should mean back. So many sites don't though and it is annoying! –  Roger Attrill Jul 28 '11 at 20:51
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Overall it sounds very good. A couple of things you need to be cautious of:

  1. Is the pagination dynamic? I.e. can an item be on page X on the user's first visit and then float to page X+1 before the user comes back? In that case the page numbers are meaningless and you should let them go back to the content they were viewing, rather than to the page. If there's a lot of content which might get spread over two pages, just select some anchor that makes sense to you.
  2. It's a good idea within session, but it shouldn't work across sessions. If you can use signing in to distinguish between sessions, that's great. If not, you need to select the timeout carefully - maybe by a period of inactivity across the site.
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Great points. In some cases, #1 may be avoided by splitting pages by date, first letter (if the items are sorted alphabetically), etc., instead of just n items per page. That way an item is always on the same page. –  Patrick McElhaney Jul 29 '11 at 13:09
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Short answer, in my view - yes. Every single time I've done paging and navigation, clients and users have (rightly) asked for this feature.

As far as the user is concerned, each "Go to page" click is a progress step. The "Back" button, whilst (generally) navigating back one history item is, to them, taking the user back one step. If they go to anything other than the page they were last on, they'd have a sense of "wasted effort". Something I think should be avoided.

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We have done exactly what you propose on our website's latest design—persistent position in pagination while changing views or widgets—and we believe this is the best route in many cases.

To see our example, go to http://www.shoptopia.com/discover. This is is the Discover page. The black and red filter tabs beneath Latest Articles will filter among categories, narrowing down the articles shown on the default All tab. Here's the expereince:

  1. Click on black Style tab; you're on page 1 of Style.
  2. Scroll down and click "next"; now you're on page 2 of Style.
  3. Click on Beauty tab; you're on page 1 of Beauty.
  4. Click back on to Style; you're still on page 2 from before.

[This is the way things work as of 11/2011.]

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