Pagination, a thing of the past?

A screenshot of a traditional pagination UI element showing 1 2 3 etc and next page links

Traditional pagination

Pagination, those 1 2 3 .. Next page links at the bottom of a page of search results or content. Are they dying a slow death? I think so and when you step back and think about it, it makes perfect sense. Why do we need it? If you scroll to the bottom of a page of content surely that’s indicating you want to see more? So, website, load some more and save me the click and time!

Some good examples I’ve seen of this are on Forrst (screen recording below as it’s an invitation only site) and the new Google image search (go give it a try).

The future of pagination - none!

Note the back to top button top right in the screencast as well, nice touch!

Twitter has a big “more” button at the bottom which is somewhere in between traditional pagination and where I think we’re heading – a paginationless world. I think they should just load more tweets as you scroll and save us some clicking.

This post inspired by discussions at 99designs.com.

Update: This article Pagination alternatives is a good related read.

26 Comments

  1. Mal Curtis

    Ever tried to view the footer links on that page at forrst.com?

    • james Author

      Nope, because I don’t have a need to see them, if there are any. I’m looking at the content – that’s what I’m there for and where my focus is. If one did have footer links they could move them to a sidebar or an expandable area permanently attached to the bottom of the browser chrome.

  2. Ryan Percival

    I tend to agree, as an interim measure I’m using the Autopagerize plugin for chrome which detects pagination and removes it, instead loading the next page as you scroll. It doesn’t work on all sites but enough to reduce my irritation.

  3. In media one of the problems is pagination = more page views = more eyeballs on ads = more $$$.

    Anyone have examples of pagination-less experiences which include advertising?

    • james Author

      Yeah I did think of that. Inline ads would be best I think every say 50 results, then you could count each load as a page view.

  4. How do search engines index content that’s not loaded until the user performs a certain action?

    And personally, I don’t like websites taking up my bandwidth by loading content without an explicit okay from me.

  5. I agree that pagination is becoming a thing of the past, however I can’t agree about the auto-loading of content.

    I think it’s a little presumptuous to auto-load content when you hit the bottom of a page (I might be on a slow or a limited bandwidth connection!).

    I think twitter have got it right with the “Load More” button.

  6. I’ve recently looked into implementing a bottomless page as a replacement for pagination at work.

    Unfortunately Mal Curtis has a point; it effectively makes the footer unreachable—and since the footer usually contains links to terms and conditions, company contact details, and other such important legal features, this can be an issue for the user.

    Potentially more important though (depending on your business), we’re seeing more and more evidence of Google spidering pages that are only reachable through JavaScript; further proof that GoogleBot is now running a headless browser with full JavaScript capabilities. In effect, this means that Google can’t reach the footer either, and most sites use the footer as a location for internal links that will aid Googles assessment of site structure and, therefore, resultant rankings. I would assume that, if GoogleBot has trouble reaching the bottom of the page, the page will be flagged as potentially spammy, and, awaiting assessment from a human moderator, will be sandboxed indefinitely. (Obviously, as stated, that’s an assumption; but it’s certainly the way Google tends to work when presented with pages it has difficulty understanding.)

    The clear solution to this is to stop using footers altogether if you want to use a bottomless page. However it’s also worth noting that source order is important. Any code for columns that may be floated to the left or right of the main content—but that appear beneath it in the source—is also at potential risk of being overlooked.

    There are any number of UX and SEO constraints that need to be taken into account when contemplating the use of a bottomless page; and as is so often the case, these constraints can often be in direct opposition to each other.

    That being said, I eagerly await the day someone comes up with a bottomless page paradigm that attempts to address all these concerns.

  7. This works well for desktop browsing, but I doubt it is implementable within (wide) mobile arena, so the pagination lives on mobile as far as I am concerned.

    When I say ‘mobile’, I don’t mean iPad/iPhone only.

  8. brian cooper

    Wondering how this would apply to ecommerce. Browsing for products in a sea of options is often mind-boggling as it is. Filtering, smart-search (type-ahead), guided navigation – these are all employed to help solve this problem. Often you still end up with a paginated results page. But what most shoppers (those ready to buy anyway – as opposed to window-shoppers), want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Still looking for the magic bullet to enable that objective.

  9. Don’t forget that pagination helps us gauge how many results have been returned, which depending on the type of content can be important. Having a bottomless scroller can feel a little disconnected if it doesn’t provide feedback to the user about where they are within the results. Some implementations are only marginal improvements over the past practice of internal containers with scrollbars.
    Another probably less important factor is memory use on the device, if you had several tabs open and they are all bottomless then all that content is resident in memory which may not be ideal.

  10. Iza

    I think the answer might be ‘it depends’… Having pagination available on pages that do not list search results or other content that gets updated frequently is still useful, e.g. articles that span across multiple pages (such as http://www.strategy-business.com/article/00041). Pros: 1. I don’t get the entire article loaded before I know if I want to read it; 2. If a particular page contained something I want to read again, I can quickly jump to it; 3. I know how many pages there are and can decide if I want to read it now or later; and 4. I have an option for displaying all pages.

  11. My one is slider pagination….

    http://www.creativeprogramming.it/blogs/wp/index.php/2009/11/05/awesome-page-slider-with-dojo/

    You can handle very big page numbers in the better way IHMO…

    Dynamic loading is not usable when you have to scroll very backward…

  12. Steve

    And the back button in browsers is almost always terrible when you return to one of these auto-loading pages. Typically you return to a page that has now only loaded the first “page” and you have to do the scrolling again.

    I imagine this could be fixed with changing of the URL, but I don’t know how feasible this would be when the user isn’t clicking buttons to load more results.

  13. Martha

    I HATE those little links that dole out the content in teaspoonfuls. There’s stuff I want to read that I just give up on–read, click, wait, read, click, wait…. OK, I have DSL. Lots of people have DSL.

    What I like, that I’m beginning to see, is “view all” or something like that, offered as an alternative alongside the 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 -type links. Sanity, ah! sweet sanity.

  14. James

    Bing image search (http://www.bing.com/images) has been set up this way for a while now, with their footer absolutely positioned.
    As you scroll, the results status also updates to inform you where you are in the returned set.

  15. SomeFunkyDude

    wow, that’s a really interesting point, yes, I do think, pagination is a thing of the past. Great observation.

  16. Virgilio Gómez-Negrete

    Pagination never has been useful, but auto load is not good idea anyway.
    When I see in Google 1 2 3 4… I don’t have idea what is on page 4, so why is it useful? On the other hand, auto loading may be problematic for printing the content.

  17. I don’t like pagination either, but I don’t think making every page bottomless is the best solution, either.

  18. In my opinion for mobile browsing pagination will be in future used too. Maybe for other devices like desktop browsers there will be other options and possibilities. Yeah Jason Grant, man you’re right. Thats my opinion, too.

    Greets from Germany

  19. Proxy

    This approach, while very cool, is a desktop centric approach in that mobile devices (including iPad, and likely other tablets) will run into memory problems.

    Future generation mobile hardware will make this a non-issue, but for now, it’s good to be aware.

  20. I have no issues with pagination, but that’s just me. Like previous posts have mentioned, what about those who wish to browse the footer? Furthermore, auto-loading content is making an assumption that I’m at the bottom to read more when I could be at the bottom looking at the footer or something else.

    I believe many image search engines have adopted the lack of pagination to my despise because to me its just a waste of bandwidth. If I want to view the next set of data/images, I’ll click and make sure I do – I don’t need to be forced into doing so. No pagination could be good for those who have good control over their data output but its another story for sites that are blatantly wasteful.

  21. One consideration of bottomless pages that fetch new content automatically ( such as http://sortfolio.com/) is that it confuses the normal operation of the browser window: when you drag the scrollbar down and reach the magic point where new content is requested, the UI control you were dragging jumps back up because ratio of scrollbar length to page length has changed.

  22. Interesting post James and some equally interesting comments, many of which I agree with.

    One significant consideration is the context that pagination provides. Without pagination, we might need other cues to help us remember where, say, an image was, amongst a large set.

    What about a compromise? Could have pagination—ideally based on something useful like A-D E-G etc for named things—but provide the option to display next page or all on one page? Seems that would provide context and cues while maintaining user control.

    Thanks,
    Jessica

  23. I think we shouldnt throw pagination totally away just yet. Much as i like the fact that i dont have to keep clicking on the next button to see more data, there are times when its the best way to go. Like when there are millions of results, and the one i am looking for is right in the middle of the result set.

    I think a good idea would be to make the option available to the user to choose what form of navigation he’d want, at the top of the page!

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