More paging

Someone asked me how many results would be a best practice for a listing page. This seems like a fairly straight forward question, but while discussion the options it turned out that the simple question resulted more complex questions. It starts with why you want these items in the first place; what is the overview you want to create; is there a need or possibility to search, sort of filter? How many results are expected; 10; 50; 1000? Would a paging functionality be relevant? Do you want to refer to a specific page to refer to a specific result set? How long does it take to load all of the results at once? How does the sorting work; is the sorting inspired by the previous sorting criteria? Would a lazy-load functionality help in this case? Would it be enough to just show the top 20 results?

Google search results for pagination best practices
Google search results for pagination best practices

The number of results is also dependent on the screen size; for a mobile screen you don't want to show too much results at the same time, but on the other hand is the scrolling more intuitive because of touch-control. Who is using this page? Are we designing this screen for just one or two managers or are we optimising the work proces of 1000 FTE's?

A quick scan of some news or e-commerce sites, will display a set of inspirational patterns, but the best solution is probably not a copy. Every user deserves an optimal user interface, but the investment to get answers to all these questions might not weigh up against the benefit of it. The brief brainstorm did not provide an easy answer, but we did learn what to research; you cannot design without understanding the context.

The honest answer for a "best-practice"-question is that you can use patterns as inspiration, but you really need to research the context of use before you can give a real answer.