I have a web application. On the homepage dashboard there are several tables containing a lot of records/rows, say 300. Sometimes users have to browse all of the rows in a table instead of directly going to a specific one.

I'm thinking either use a scroll bar or pagination to assist the users to see more data within each table. Which is a better choice? Or is there another, better solution?

Below are some simple wireframes of these two methods.

enter image description here

  • Can you describe the user's goal when interacting with the table? I'm asking because: (1) scrolling or paging is irrelevant if the user is looking for one specific row - search is better, (2) sorting then scrolling is suitable for scanning contiguous rows to find a group of records or understand the nature of the data, (3) paging is suitable for scanning too but the page breaks interrupt the process and, at 4 rows per page, scanning 300 rows will be tedious. Also, paging was created because loading all of the data into a table was difficult. 300 rows should fit into a single table. – user1757436 Nov 27 '12 at 20:16
  • Search is enabled if they know what to search. But there are also situations where they don't know what to search, meaning they have to go through each and every row, unfortunately... – wcdomy Nov 27 '12 at 20:46

This is more personal preference, but I've always disliked having scrollbars within a scrollable page, especially a significantly large area, such as a table. The reason being that when you want to scroll the page, then users can frequently get "stuck" in scrolling the table and not the screen. It impedes them from doing what they actually wanted to do.

If the entire page does not scroll, then I think a scrolling table is fine. However, if you're going to allow the page to scroll (on any size screen), then I'd highly recommend not allowing the tables to scroll.

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  • I agree. I don't like scrolling either, especially there are several tables on one page... – wcdomy Nov 27 '12 at 20:48

how about an option in user profile to switch between? I Personally would prefer to have a paging system, however many of my friends etc really dislike paging on various forums etc, and would prefer scrolling. Considering that the amount of design that would go into making both options viable would (presumably) be very little, it might be worth giving users the option to do whichever they want.

Ultimately, the exact behavior a user prefers can vary greatly, and the amount of work required to allow this switch would probably be quite minimal.

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  • I think it's useful if it really depends on users' personal preference. – wcdomy Nov 27 '12 at 20:47
  • 2
    Hi Nrgdallas. This is a bit lacking in detail and reasoning, can you expand on this? Are you saying that both choices the OP has selected are equally valid ways to go? As it stands it's more suitable as a comment against the question than a comprehensive answer, so I can convert it to a comment as you've not currently got the reputation to do so (unless you can edit this post and add in some enhanced detail / reasoning?) – JonW Nov 27 '12 at 21:00
  • Thanks for the edit, more detail is almost always better. Your closing line is a very good point too - everyone is different and prefer different things. – JonW Nov 27 '12 at 23:49

I would consider using both.

It's easier for users to scroll than to use pagination. But having one long list would be inefficient if there were a lot of items and the user needed to get to one nearer the end.

If you use a combination, you usually end up with a good balance.

However, please let the scrollable area expand for people with bigger screens.

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  • Why not just have the whole screen as the scrollable area? – JonW Nov 27 '12 at 19:36
  • Because there are multiple tables on one screen. – wcdomy Nov 27 '12 at 19:39

A couple other things to consider when you make your choice:

  1. Will people be visiting this site on a mobile device? Embedded scrollable areas may not be as obvious as pagination links/buttons (for example, iOS Safari—like Mac OS X Lion and Mountain Lion—hides scrollbars until you attempt to scroll).
  2. Will people attempt to send a URL to someone for them to be able to land on the data they are currently looking at in the table? If so, pagination affecting the page URL may be helpful, while scrolling will not.


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