Suppose I need to select multiple items across pages and then apply an action (click of a button) on it.

Is it a good idea?

If user wants to know what he/she has selected then can I help him by allowing sorting on the checkbox row? Please let me know if there are any guidelines on this.

Note: This isn't really about user-expectation. I checked this question as well but couldn't understand how to make selection possible.

  • It is always good practice to be helpful. So the question is: is what you want to do actually helpful to the user or does it make his life more complicated. If you can't answer that: ask the user. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 11:21
  • @MarjanVenema So is it a good idea to do so? Are there any pros and cons of doing so? I saw this answer ux.stackexchange.com/a/43960/25193 it has given some good points but there is no consensus on the same. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 11:34
  • How much items are visible per page? And around how many items are going to be selected in total?
    – jazZRo
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 12:54
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    You say "This isn't really about user-expectation" -- but what is it really about?
    – Tim Grant
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 22:17
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    It's typically a good idea to match user expectation, that's pretty central to UX, so if you take that measure of goodness out, what "goodness" are you going for instead?
    – Tim Grant
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 11:32

4 Answers 4


In general: NO

This is really bad UX: creating actions that affect other pages the user can't see and maybe don't remember is the definition of an anti-pattern. You'll always need to make sure that users are aware of the consequences of their actions, otherwise they'll need to re-do everything again, even if they didn't even try to do what they were forced to.

There are a few particular cases where I have seen this kind of bad behavior, most commonly e-commerce sites. However, they don't do this in order to provide good usability, but in order to maybe get more sales (so at checkout you'll need to delete the products you really didn't want or even marked days ago. As an example, GoDaddy did this for years)

If your case is an e-commerce one, just offer a cart option like everyone does: instead of checking a grid element, make them add to cart.

Similarly, even if this is NOT for an e-commerce site and you only want users to group items of interest, just offer the same "add to cart" functionality (obviously with another name) and then create a page where all these marked elements are grouped together

  • We often have to create sets of things where the user picks out of thousands of items. We display their current selection count outside the list view and they can click on it to see all the selected items. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 14:30

Update: Devin's comment below is right: While Gmail remembers selections across multiple pages, it performs actions only on the selected items on the current page. I'm flummoxed!

Yes, it's good practice to remember checkbox selections across multiple pages, if implemented properly.

My rationale: Google's successful Gmail app does it in it's main web interface. It's been a consistent feature for many years, and we must assume that Google has user tested the service extensively. To me, this is validation in itself. If you are still in doubt I recommend researching additional services.

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    Unless there's something I can't see such as a filter or a special setting I'm missing, this is not correct. Just tested it selecting 2 messages per page in 3 different pages and then deleted: it only deleted the ones selected in current page
    – Devin
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 19:06
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    @Devin You're absolutely right. I hadn't tested thoroughly enough. I really don't know what to make out of Gmail's behaviour in this instance. Agree that it's good to see what you are making changes to, but when they actually allow selections across multiple pages, I would have liked a notification that changes are per page only.
    – bjornte
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 21:35

Remembering of checkbox states across different pages is common, especially when you have an autosave feature. However to apply a single action (other than submit) that will affect different pages is rare, for me at least.

I have only seen this idea applied to a checkout process. User go through a series of steps, making selection on different pages and eventually clicking on a button to purchase.

Perhaps you could elaborate on what you mean by "sorting on the checkbox row" and provide us with some context on where is this applied. This would help us to come up with better solutions.

Suggested Approach

Having said that, you could probably explore the idea of using wizard to prep the user. Let them know that they are about to go through a series of related pages and a single action will be applied on the last page.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Above is just a design pattern that you can modified to fit your needs.

  • Thanks, here I am talking about a grid rather than a wizard. How do I make a wizard on a grid? Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 4:59

I don't think a horizontal toolbar or even the traditional sidebar with filters is a bad practice.

I'm not sure why a grid. You can display the checked options only with a reset button.

If this website is an e-commerce site, I really think this is something needed because if I choose the brand for example and I click a subcategory from the page with all the products, I will want the brand filter be still applied.

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