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Alright I've been Googling all morning and I'm not satisfied with any answers I've found.

The problem: I want users to be able to view a large amount of data.

The solution: Pagination.

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The problem: I want users to be able to ACT on data that extends beyond one page.

The solution: Infinite scroll. The user can scroll to see all the results and then act on all of them (a checkbox in each table row).

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The problem: I want users to be able to ACT on a large amount of data.

The solution: ???

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Each method has its benefits. Pagination allows you to look through thousands of records with no browser side effects while infinite scrolling through thousands of records can bring your browser to a crawl. But infinite scroll allows you to view all of the data on one page, so it's clearer to the user that they can act on all of them at the same time.

Facets+pagination solve MOST of the problems, except acting on large amounts of data. There's no reason for a user to look through 100,000 records one by one, but it's certainly possible they want to act on them.

So what I need is a way to allow the user to view a lot of data (pagination is fine in the case of viewing), act on small amounts of data (again, pagination is fine), act on large amounts of data (spanning more than a page), and act on ALL data.

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I think at some point you have to be realistic about the 'physical' limitations of what you are asking for, because the solutions can only be combined if they are working towards the same goals. Having said that, sometimes we are only limited to what we think is possible or capable of doing, so I am hoping to offer some alternate solutions here:

The problem: I want users to be able to view a large amount of data.

The alternate solution: Advance chart types such as sparklines, infographics or data visualizations that summarizes the data rather than showing individual datasets/datapoints. You can still see the details without having to focus on any particular one at a time.

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The problem: I want users to be able to ACT on data that extends beyond one page.

The alternate solution: Data exploration/visualization tool that allows you to work with datasets in a more powerful way.

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The problem: I want users to be able to ACT on a large amount of data.

The solution: Data exploration/visualization tool that allows you to work with datasets in a more powerful way.

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With any large dataset, you should allow the user to filter out unwanted records, to narrow the result set down as much as possible, as large data sets can be difficult for a user to digest. The most common way to do this of course is via search. You could also use checkboxes, tags, drop downs, etc to further target what you are looking for. A good example that comes to mind is when searching for something on Amazon, you get many filtering options on the left side so you can tune in to exactly what you are looking for.

Once you get your result set in control, consider allowing the user to select that group of data that match the common criteria/filter, and perform a bulk action on that group. Instead of having the user select each item manually, you could either

  1. have a select/deselect all button, then the user enters their changes one time via a single form, which would in turn update all selected records. This option would allow the user to review all records and decide if they want to uncheck a few before applying the changes. This may be tedious for larger data sets.

  2. or simply edit the "group" of items, via a single form, which would in turn update all records within the group. Assuming the user does not need to further filter the data set down any more. This option would work well with really large data sets, since you would not be taxing the UI as much and at that point a user would likely not take the time to individually look through thousands of records individually anyways (at least not happily).

In short, the more you can group large data sets based on a given criteria, the faster it will be to edit.

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