What is Pagination?
We’ve all heard the phrase, often spoken as a joke, “Hey, that’s just too much information – I didn’t need to know that!” In the course of our daily lives we often get information that we don’t need, or, that we don’t find useful or interesting. Too much information, or information that is poorly organized, can be confusing and counterproductive. The same sort of thing is true on the internet. Who hasn’t found a lengthy article on the web which contained the answer to a burning question or offered a compelling insight into a particular subject of interest, though the vast majority of the article contained information in which we had very little interest? Or, maybe the article in question wasn’t very long and was quite to the point, but it was displayed on a page that included fifty other articles – making it very hard to find. Lengthy documents and pages on the web can simply overwhelm visitors with data (even when all of that data is interesting and useful) when they’re not optimized – somehow – for quick and easy navigation.
Not surprisingly, the term “pagination” refers to the process of breaking up large amounts of web content into pages, and, thereby making individual posts or lengthy web documents (posts, articles, etc.) more comprehensible and more easily navigated by the reader. As already suggested, while the concept of pagination is fairly straightforward, in practice it can function on a variety of levels. On a web site pagination may refer simply to the way in which individual posts and articles are separated from one another by placing them on different pages. Or, it may include breaking a single article (or post) into various pieces for display on separate pages. As an example, you can install plugins for WordPress that allow you to break lengthy articles into multiple pages (usually where each portion covers a particular section of a larger topic) and string the pieces together with hyperlinks. In other words, pagination can not only be used to separate one article from another but it can be used to divide a single article (or post) into segments which reside on multiple pages. On a much larger level, consider an internet search engine. A search engine uses pagination, on a macro level, to sort through a mountain of documents with the goal of helping a user find the information they need in the simplest and most effective way possible.
Pagination is at the heart of document sorting, and, the organization of information on the internet. If you have a website, a blog, etc. pagination is often a tool you’ll wish to implement (at one level or another) so as to organize your site’s content in way that is the most appealing and useful to your readers.
Who should use pagination?
Well planned pagination is an essential building block of any successful blog, forum, or any other web site which contains a significant amount of content. The way in which a site is broken up into sections, or pages, can make things easier to find and make a site more useful to it’s readers. A certain amount of pagination is generally built into the core of most CMS/blogging software. As mentioned above, pagination is something which can often be tweaked with plugins on a CMS like WordPress. On the other hand, a small, static site or an online book might not be a good candidate for pagination. Obviously, your site’s content is the single most important factor determining whether or not pagination would be recommended.
How Pagination Helps
Quality of User Experience: We’ll begin with an obvious example. Let’s say you have an ecommerce site that sells shoes, and, you have an inventory of 16000 different styles. It goes without saying that you wouldn’t want to display all of the available models on a single page – the page would take virtually forever to load (even with lots of bandwidth) and visitors would likely have to scroll endlessly to find a product of interest. Given the nature of an ecommerce site, they represent a type of web site which simply must employ a system of pagination to be functional. Without pagination on an ecommerce site the user experience would be such that, having once visited the site, no one would ever return. Without pagination, in this case, information would be next to impossible to find, pages would take forever to load, and the quality of a user’s experience would be zero.
Navigation and Organization: Pagination, as already explained, allows for better navigation and organization on any website that contains lots of content. On a blog, for instance, visitors can easily click the entry number of a blog article they want to read. Further, depending upon a blog’s pagination configuration, they might just as easily be able to click another link to find a particular portion of an article they’ve found interesting. A forum – much like an ecommerce site – is another example of a site which requires pagination to be navigable, in any meaningful sense. Without organization by pages – or without pagination – a web forum would be a completely confusing train wreck.
Bandwidth Stress/Page Load Time: We’ve already mentioned page load time and bandwidth considerations as things which impact a web visitor’s overall user experience. It’s worth taking a moment to further consider the importance of proper pagination as it relates to your web visitors. We’ve all landed on a web site which attempted to display so much data on an individual page that the darned thing took forever to load. If you’re like me, this can be annoying to the extent that I often opt to simply return to a search engine and look for the same information elsewhere. In extreme cases such pages can even zap your bandwidth, or, cause a browser to stop responding. A properly paginated site is absent these problems.
Revenue: Pagination, as we’ve discussed, is simply the process whereby a large amount of data is divided into smaller, meaningful sections (or pages) which can be easily found by users and search engines. If you operate a web site as a source of income this, proper pagination is something which can help you optimize your revenues. By having more pages, more links to your site will appear in the search results of various search engines. And more links to your sites means more page views. By having more pages – on which you can place advertising – and more page views you increase the probability of getting folks to click an ad – it’s that simple.