Multipage Index

A problem with some indexes is that they are very, very long, and are a pain to scroll through.  One way to reduce the amount of scrolling required is to spread the index over multiple pages.  To do this, go to the settings page and turn on the following two options:

  • Use multiple pages
  • Display an alphabetical heading at the start of every page

You only need the first of these to get a multipage index, but if you don’t turn on the second one, there will be no alphabetical heading at the top of the first column on the page when a section straddles two pages, so it’s usually better to turn it on too.

Before you save, notice that another settings field has appeared near the bottom of the settings page–called “Number of items per page.”  This is where you specify how many items you want to see on one page.  For the example index below, it is set to 20.  Since there are 100 posts in the blog, that means there are five pages in this index.  (Note: if you don’t specify a value for the number of items per page, then selecting the “use multiple pages” option has no effect.)

Notice also that a set of page links has appeared above the alphabetical links, so readers can page through the index if they’re just browsing.  If they know which part of the index they need to look at, they can still use the alphabetical links to navigate directly to the start of a section.  If that section is not on the current page, then clicking an alphabetical link will take them to the page they are looking for.

Some people prefer multipage indexes as a stylistic choice–e.g. so readers don’t have to scroll through a very long index–but if you have a large number of items, say, several hundred, in your index then there is a performance issue to consider too.  It can take a few seconds to load and format an index page with hundreds, or thousands of items on it.  An index limited to 50 items per page, for example, may feel a good bit snappier to your readers.  (Note: A caching solution like the WP Super Cache plugin does help in many cases, but if your index is only accessed a few times a day, then the extra caching may be ineffective because, by default, the pages usually go “stale”–are thrown out of the cache–within an hour or so.)

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