We have a system where we are creating a new Admin portal.

In the portal we have tabs with tables like DataTables and 15 rows per page.

We have around 100 000 rows and making dynamic fetching from the server, now to the question.

We are having internal discussions about two solutions, which one do you prefer?

  1. Do we fill the table with the first 15, for the user useless, records, and have the label showing 15 of 100 000 and the pagination bar, giving the user full access to filtering etc?
  2. Do we have an empty table showing 0 records and force for the user to search for something before enabling the table?
  • 1
    Just want to point out that you do have a third alternative also. To not shot a table instantly but instead give space for a sophisticated filtering area. This can usually be the case when using search oriented services with a LARGE data volume, like whitepages for example. Jan 27, 2015 at 10:20

2 Answers 2


Of those two options, I suggest the first one.

Showing the user the table already populated with content acts as a hint to them as to what they can search for, and the format of the data itself.

The Bootstrap example you link to shows how this can help quite nicely:

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If this table were empty and the user had to search by 'Office', how would they know that the contents of that field was cities? Showing the table with some records in it gives the user that useful hint as to the data content and format.


I'v made an interface for a similar case recent month. I choose option 1.

Upsides option 1:

  • It's clear it is a table (depending on your styling. A table header with no rows can be confused with all sorts of things)
  • Search/sort/filter makes more sense if you see some dummy data.

I found a few downsides for option 1

  • Shown results are useless.
  • I saw one user using the pager to 'guess' on which page his required result (a username starting with 'B' would be. This was absolutely useless, since there is no way users can know this.

I started looking for a solution for those two downsides. In my case it could be useful to show the latest looked-up rows by the logged in user. (In my application, you can expand the row for details) So I suggest you search for any useful way to fill those first rows. Other examples could be: recently added, recently updated, about to expire, latest start date, most viewed, highest revenue, best selling... Or similarities with the logged in user, like a manager logging in would see users in his department. Or something completely different like showing users with upcoming birthdays, or products running out of stock...

Secondly, I replaced the pager with a 'load more' buttons. More on this subject here: Regular pagination vs. infinite scroll

As final side note: Some could argue that a single-field centered Google-like search box is always more distraction-less en user-friendly. If the data is very structured, not like text-based web pages, filters and sorting are more logical. For exmaple searching for date-based data is done by a datepicker or sorting on latest/oldest and not by typing dates in a search-box.

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