25

A pagination sometimes includes first / last buttons like so:

<<first  < prev  1 2 3 ... 9  next >  last>>

I can understand the “first” button, because, well it quite makes sense go back to the first page of search results, etc...

As I understand, to move forward users will mostly use “Next” button.

And I can only imagine one use case for the “Last” button, it’s when you sort results by some numeric values (e.g. price) and want to see the most expensive items (vs. the least expensive ones on the first page).

Are there any other uses cases for the “last“ button? Where having the “last” is a must?

UPDATE #1

Please notice that the pagination in the example actually has a link to the last page

1 2 3 ... → 9 ←

Is adding explicit “last” works better (I’m assuming that numbers look like buttons with all necessary states and affordances)?

UPDATE #2

There are plenty of valid examples that emphasize the importance of the “last” things. My original rationale was that newer first — older last filter is more convenient than last link/button.

If you go to the last page to get the oldest/cheapest/etc. items, there is an issue because those items won’t appear at the top of the last page but rather at the end.

So you'll have to work it out bottom → top, right → left (in pages) which is less comfortable than sort oldest → new, and then process information in the usual way. But I agree some people may be used to the last page workflow.

  • 47
    how about oldest items? – Boat Mar 8 '18 at 11:42
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    Personally I find it very annoying when there is no "last page" button (GitHub's commits list for example). – d3L Mar 8 '18 at 17:03
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    If a pagination like this exists, I always find it cumbersome if the entry I want is on for instead the 50th page out of 16,000, as I have to go by 3's just to get to the page with the entry I'm looking for. This can be solved by adding in both "Go to page" functions or in some cases the "Items per page" choices. Last is useful, but a "Goto" can be very helpful as an alternative. – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Mar 8 '18 at 23:09
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    My advice: don't remove it. Even if you would never use it many do. I certainly do. There are many uses but it comes down to one critical thing: preference. The fact of the matter is you do not want to burden your users; an interface that puts a burden on users is only going to frustrate users. Think about the interfaces you've had to deal with that aren't designed well or could be improved. The easier it is for al users the better and some users will make use of the last page. – Pryftan Mar 9 '18 at 3:11
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66

There's a very simple reason for this: you want users to know there is an end to the amount of data they are shown. Humans have a need for closure and control, and the Last button helps with that; along with the First button, it marks a clear beginning and end.

Now, whether a First or Last button will serve as more than just an overview marker, will depend on what kind of data you are showing. When it comes to showing the most relevant search results, the Last button will not add much. But, when it comes to chronological searches, like transactions or a timeline, your user may want to view things as they happened. Not newest first, but oldest first and moving forward in time.

What you can also do instead of buttons, is to simply mark 1 as your First button and the last page number as your Last button.

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  • 4
    Filtering is definitely more convenient, but we also have to account for people who don't do that/dont yet know what they're looking for and want to browse through everything. You often see sorting options like date or price to help these people as well. – Wanda Mar 8 '18 at 14:13
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    Again, the main reason to having a button like this is to show there's an end to the huge amount of data. I'll add another possible solution to my answer. – Wanda Mar 8 '18 at 14:42
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    The arrow and double arrow icons originally came from the audio and video media worlds. You want to be able to fast-forward some, and back up some, you want to be able to go to the beginning, and go to the end. It seemed like a good analogy to pagination: go ahead a page, back a page, ahead to the end, back to the beginning... But in audio, the 'end' is a spot, and on a page, there could be several displayable items. If anything, going to the spot at the very end of audio is what is broken, not being able to go to the last page. – user67695 Mar 8 '18 at 18:20
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    "Last" (or "498" in your case) affords an easy way of getting to page 495, if you judge that's where your desired data is (ie, not quite on the last page). I certainly wouldn't want to page through groups of numbers to get to nearly-the-end. – Andrew Leach Mar 8 '18 at 18:51
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    My first thought goes to forums/comment threads that have pages - usually they're fixed as newest to oldest or oldest to newest, and options to reverse ascending/descending are less common and feel weird in that sort of case. A "Last" page for most recent is essential. – MattTreichel Mar 9 '18 at 16:03
38

You didn't really describe your exact use case, but I can share some uses I see for the "last" button, and I hope these are helpful to your particular needs:

Forums

In many forums, there are massive, multi-year threads that span hundreds of pages. Often times, facts and available information change over these years, and what was correct and accurate when the thread started is now out of date. In these cases, it's a life-saver to quickly and easily click "Last", and then browse through the thread in reverse chronological order.

Blogs/Webcomics

In the reverse of the above, many blogs and webcomics are sorted in reverse chronological order, in the sense that the "first" page is the most recent post, and the "last" page is the first post. Some blogs and webcomics cover large story archs, and require reading the complete work to understand it. In this case, the "last" button is a quick and easy way to get to the beginning. Even if you reverse the language so it's more consistent, you'd still want the "last" button for the same reasons you described for a "first" button in your question.

Email

Many email clients do not provide a way of sorting email oldest to newest. For example, in Gmail, you can't simply put the oldest email on top. However, if you want to get to your oldest email, you're going to want that "last" button. In Gmail in particular, this is achieved with an "Oldest" button that pops up when you hover over your page count, but it's use is the same. For an email client with more "typical" pagination, you'd undoubtedly see something just like the "last" button you're asking about.

Shopping

Similar to email, some shopping sites do not allow you to sort both forwards and backwards on all fields. This missing capability is (fortunately) less and less common, but it still shows up occasionally. In this case, having the ability to quickly jump to the last page allows you to poor-man reverse sort a field.

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    +1 for the part on Forums, this is something I do very very regularly. – Rolf ツ Mar 9 '18 at 14:59
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    In my experience, most webcomics have the "first" button go to the oldest issue of the webcomic and the "last" to the newest one. Blogs are indeed usually sorted from new to old, though. – V2Blast Mar 12 '18 at 3:13
12

How about and oldest item? Although I don't see why it couldn't be solved with sort by date rather than pagination. Same goes with price, alphabetical etc.

  • Boat was asked to post an answer, and while it may not be the best answer, he did as he was asked. He doesn't deserve down votes. – Guy Schalnat Mar 8 '18 at 19:36
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    @GuySchalnat: Votes are for the post, not for the person. As such, whether Boat deserves them isn't really the point - if the post is not considered sufficiently useful to be an answer then that's why it will get downvotes. I didn't cast one though. Cheers! – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 9 '18 at 0:19
  • Maybe it is an example of "boat voting"? – user67695 Mar 9 '18 at 15:15
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    I downvoted because exactly this reason was already stated in the question: "And I can only imagine one use case for the 'Last' button, it’s when you sort results by some numeric values (e.g. price) and want to see the most expensive items (vs. the least expensive ones on the first page)." Unless this answer provides a new perspective on this reason (e.g. by justifying how sorting by some value in such a way that both the top items and the bottom items of the list are interesting is so widespread that the few other cases should not break the convention), I do not see how it adds anything. – O. R. Mapper Mar 10 '18 at 8:13
8

Previous answers cover the human perspective, but there are also lots of non-human bots and webcrawlers that browse paginated websites.

The bot for the crawling project I am personally working on relies on those links to the last page, since it works like this:

  1. Given a list of URLs for articles, download the first page of each.
  2. In each loaded page, look for a link to a "last" page.
  3. From the page number in that link, infer all the page numbers inbetween, and the corresponding URLs.
  4. Download all the missing pages.

Sure, a lot of crawlers are designed differently and just recursively follow all the links on each page, including the link to the next page of the article. If the bot runs in endless mode, then the lack of a "last page" link is no big deal.

However, if there is a recursion depth limit, then your bot will possibly capture incomplete data (i.e. with a limit of 10, you might not capture an entire 50-page-article). If the articles have "last page" links, then you can analyse the already captured data to find the maximum article length and make that your new recursion depth - or, like I do above, generate the URLs of the missing pages.

So if there are no "last page" links, then you cannot do either of those things. You have to guess a new recursion depth, and you can't even tell how much data is still missing.

So not only humans want to know what the end (and by extension the size) of the data is, bots can use that information too. Considering that most sitemaps, which are the starting point for my bot, only have links to the first page of an article, the only ways to get that info are nexting to the end - or a simple "last page" link.

  • 1
    I would be tempted to make the final link point back to the beginning, just to trip up non-humans. (Silly robot, clicks are for kids) – user67695 Mar 9 '18 at 15:19
  • I also use the last page for data gathering. I use it to manually find out the end of a range of pages to curl which is then fed into an R script to generate a .csv using information in the HTML. If I was better at scripting I could perhaps automate working out the range. – Wes Toleman Mar 10 '18 at 2:55
  • Yeah, but I suppose a pretty much every crawler needs to work without last because not every site includes it. – Runnick Mar 10 '18 at 10:41
4

The index is in the back of the book. (This is, in fact, the most common use for me for whatever "go to the last page" feature crappy pictures-of-pages-of-a-book webpages have.)

  • Can you elaborate more about the index? Because on the web it is a bit different story for me. Last page most likely won’t contain the index. – Runnick Mar 10 '18 at 10:43
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    @Runnick : Seifert and Threlfall as previewed at Amazon.com. The index starts on p. 423 and ends on p. 437, the last page of the material. "Do I want this book?" "Well, I'm looking for coherent information about 'self-linking' ... p. 290." I end up at a lot of pictures-of-pages-of-a-book webpages. – Eric Towers Mar 10 '18 at 16:43
  • Aaah, now it makes sense. Nice one. – Runnick Mar 10 '18 at 16:45
4

A little used convention

We have go to first, … previous, and … next so pagination solutions have (almost) always included … last out of completeness.

In testing, you'll find (or at least I have found) …

  • Last is almost entirely ignored
  • Specific page numbers (as a collective function) are a close second
  • First is used occasionally (when a user has delved too deeply)
  • Previous sees a good deal of interaction
  • Next is the clear winner in the pagination function wars

Pagination is a fallback

Those tools all become even less relevant when your search results are reliably "good", you have the right filter mechanisms, and you provide the sort features your users need.

IOW, don't worry about your pagination features: focus on search, filter, and sort!

3

One forum I frequent has no sorting options (and isn't logical to read in reverse chronological order anyway -- searching is a different matter), so to get to the most recent replies, you click on the last page button (which is actually the page number so it looks like [1] 2 3 ... 8 when you're on the first page of an 8-page thread. This is very much the case in @Nick2253's answer. (The URL in this case encodes the post number not the page number, but if you're looking for posts from a specific date you can still do a binary search manually despite not having a "goto page").

In your shopping example, quite often you want the cheapest widget, but the search or category also returns a huge number of accessories for that widget. So you search by price ascending, find that the first page is just cables/stickers..., then go to the last page and work backwards through the pages. Unlike sorting by price descending, the cheapest item on each page is at the top, rather than below the fold. and you can very quickly see when you cross the boundary between the real product and the myriad accessories.

2

I'd like to add to Eric's excellent point (https://ux.stackexchange.com/a/116483/112939) on the subject of books in general. He suggests that the index is at the back of the book but if you think about it the pages of a book could be viewed as physically paginated.

But just like he goes to the index of a book by going to the last page I personally open books (I don't mean with a bookmark; I never use bookmarks) to exactly (give or take a page or two) where I left off; and if I want some specific information once I've read it I can more or less open up to that part too. I can scan blocks of text also but that's less important. The point is for a good reader being able to open directly to the page you want or need is a very helpful. I realise that maybe many (most?) can't do what I do with books but at the same time there are many experienced users who just know where the information is that they want.

There is something else though: once the user knows your material well why make them go through the tedious (read user unfriendly and annoying) task of repeatedly clicking on next (or otherwise move forward a few pages at a time) if they know it's towards the end? (Or if they're like me and sometimes read backwards - yes, yes, I know that's unusual but that's really irrelevant.) Don't make the assumption that others won't make the best of your interface; if it's towards the end and they have to go a few pages at a time it will annoy many people. And there is this: if there is another product that has similar material they may find it preferable.

This comes down to preference and ease of use and offering a way to go to the very end is a very important part of ease of use.

Edit:

Someone also pointed (sorry but I'm not sure who) out a go to page option. I agree this is a very good addition (sort of how I described I can do with books). I didn't explicitly mention it though because you were talking about Last. I would recommend you add a go to page option too, if it's reasonable in your design.

  • 2
    Agree. If we assume that users are intelligent and know how to do things, giving them more options is better than taking options away. – user67695 Mar 9 '18 at 15:22
  • @nocomprende Yes. And developers - and it seems to me this happens more and more in recent years and tragically even in the open source community - tend to believe they know what's best for the users and that their way is the only way. It's not. I don't work on websites (though I have and one that I maintain I wrote scripts to build them automatically after detecting it needs to [crontab]); this is for applications (Unix environment only; I don't like Windows at all). Software developers/UI designers should never ever assume they know what's best but unfortunately many do. – Pryftan Mar 10 '18 at 16:38
  • I had an argument with my boss once when I realized that one particular report was actually presenting inaccurate data. The boss won because that is what the users wanted and they knew about the inaccuracy. "The customer is always right." (The boss is always right, too!) – user67695 Mar 10 '18 at 21:50
  • @nocomprende My mother had similar too in her days of work; her boss - or whomever, it varied - was a numbers person. You know, as long as the numbers look good then it's fine even if it's incorrect. She saved them a lot of money over the years though they have no idea how much. Nevertheless you're right that it goes both ways. But when it comes to a UI for a website or an application that's besides the point I'd say (unless of course it's a bug in the actual application displaying inaccurate data). – Pryftan Mar 10 '18 at 22:46

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