The best approach to pagination for your e-commerce site

Pagination is the process of separating content into specific pages.It can often refer to the process of adding consecutive numbers to identify the sequential order of pages. Pagination is an important part of constructing the page layout for product listing pages.


Take the right approach to pagination and you can create amazing online experiences.


Pagination methods are used on product listing pages, i.e. those pages where all products are shown within a specific category. To do pagination well, you can follow one of these three techniques; sticking to convention, offering multiple engagement options or delivering a visual frame of reference.


Keep it conventional


Search engines like Google use pagination for all its results pages. They use pagination in a conventional sense. Conventional pagination is at the heart of many successful user experiences.  Consumers love being able to recognise page elements, allowing them to instantly understand the functionality of a site. This means less laborious mental labour for the user, who will feel immediately in control when they land on pages with conventional pagination and they’ll know just what to expect.


Consistency is a powerful usability principal. When consumers know what to do on a site based on previous experiences they feel instantly comfortable and safe. The first thing users do when landing on a website is look for familiar elements, if they find them and then get to grips with the site they stay, if they don’t they just drop off. Don’t worry about your website looking contrived or like it has copied other sites.  Conventional pagination doesn’t mean sameness, it’s about using the same mental models as other websites to display your information, in a familiar way for users. Conventional pagination also provides an easy platform upon which to introduce innovative design. Innovation can be overwhelming, but present it alongside convention and that little bit of familiarity of usability that users sense, will give them the confidence to explore the innovative experience.


Provide multiple ways to engage


Another pagination technique that puts control in the hands of the user, is the multiple options model, where you provide your site visitors with multiple ways to engage with one single product page. Allowing users to adjust how many products they view on one page at a time, making it easy to move from one page to another and providing consumers with the options to view all products on the same page at once, are some of the functions available through the multiple options model of pagination.


Many online stores have a ”show more” button on their sites, especially on mobile sites. This allows customers to engage with the site in order to control when they view more products. It does, however, involve the user increasing their mental efforts, as they will have to think about exactly what is going to happen when the “show more” button is pressed, as it could produce many different results. Allowing users to move forward and back on screens, by way of a simple “next” button shown after the number of pages available, is a great example of utilising the pagination model of multiple engagement. Here, customers are given an easy and obvious method to move to page 2.


Deliver a visual frame of reference


Showing consumers what page in the sequence of product pages they are on, by way of a series of numbered squares (each number representing a product page) provides consumers with a frame of reference, so they know where they are in the shopping journey.  They may be still in the mindset of browsing products and do not want to miss out on viewing all the gear in stock, whilst at the same time they may be clicking regularly from a product page to a product listing page and need to get their bearings. Pagination can quickly inform a consumer that they are back in the right region of the category, giving them the confidence they have not missed out on viewing other products.


Great pagination balances both physical and mental effort.  A great user experience involves interaction but the kind that requires low levels of physical and mental effort. It is the job of the retailer to reduce the amount of mental and physical effort it takes to move freely through a site and buy products, clever pagination allows retailers to do just that.