I've recently released a major update to a clients site. The site has basically been re-written from the ground up to be much more efficient, and hopefully much more functional.

The old site, however, had an option that the new site doesn't have, to display all search results on a single page. The new site doesn't have this because it has pagination, something the old site couldn't do.

From a technical perspective, the "show all" functionality of the old site was something that I had always been keen to fix. I had always considered it a fault, because it made the pages very heavy, and put a lot of unnecessary load on the web-server, database etc.

My client though is concerned now that the old site had a "feature" which the new site doesn't.

While I 'could' implement a 'show all'. I just really really do not want to. It just feels wrong to me. It feels like all the work we've done to optimize the site is going to be essentially thrown out the window, to implement a bad feature.

I obviously can't just say 'no' to my client though.

Without going into specifics, most of the results in a default search would not be relevant to any individual user. Due to the nature of the site, any individual user is never going to need to see every item in the list, and realistically would only ever need to see maybe 5 - 10 items.

I think users really should be using the search filtering, rather than idly scrolling through hundreds of irrelevant listings to find something that interests them.

What I'm hoping for, is to find some convincing arguments for why we shouldn't allow users to "show all", and what we should do from a ux perspective, so users would never want to "show all"

  • 1
    Have you done any user testing, because the most convincing arguments come from there. Aug 15, 2018 at 4:57

1 Answer 1


As far as I can see, you already answered your own question.

"Show all" is not a feature when it comes to search results. Search results are only useful if they are relevant, and (if your search is well organized), users usually will find what they need within the first few hits. If a user cannot find the results on the first page (or simply wants more sources) they can opt to see more either through pagination or a [show more] button. The benefit of faster loading and progressive disclosure outweighs the small con of not having everything available at once.

Perhaps your client is more susceptible to optimisation results rather than arguments on usability: Google is continuously optimising their search results display. Currently they are testing the use of a [show more] rather than pagination. What they found years ago though, was that most people do not go much further than the first 2 pages, and that the speed with which pages loaded made the biggest difference to keeping users engaged. So, speed and relevancy trumped being able to see everything at once. Perhaps your client will be open to knowing that a slower site (which is what showing everything at once does) will likely hurt him more than it helps his users.

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