The purpose of search is to help people find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible. Search engines attempt to facilitate this by taking the user’s query and responding with results, placing what it thinks are the most relevant results first.
Unfortunately, pagination doesn’t always do the best job of guiding the user through the search results in the most beneficial manner. I’ve noticed three common problems.
Problem 1: The “Last” button
If the first page of results is the engine’s best guess at what the user is interested in, the last page of results is inherently the engine’s worst guess. Which begs the question: why do you often see a link to the last page of results?
For the user to find what they’re looking for, it’s important to get highly relevant results in front of them. Encouraging users to look at irrelevant results is simply counter-productive. Avoid having a “last” link.
Problem 2: Pagination above results
A second harmful practice is placing the pagination above the search results. Again, the purpose of search is to present the most relevant results first. It doesn’t make sense to encourage users to skip to page 2 before they’ve encountered all of page 1.
Problem 3: Next
If the first two problems are akin to sending the user on unnecessary detours, the third problem is like not giving the user a green light when we should.
Imagine you enter a query, scroll down the page as you look over the results, and reach the bottom of the page without finding what you’re looking for. What would you want to do next? Go to page 7? No, you’ll most likely want to go to the next page of results. So, why doesn’t the pagination always offer us a big, whopping “Next” button?
All three of these side effects are the result of one illness: forgetting to optimize pagination for helping users move from highly relevant results to less relevant results in a proper progression.
For TwigKit, we also wanted to make it easy for people to get back to the earlier pages of more relevant results once they have navigated to a later page.