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I'm trying to find an alternative way of displaying 50 unordered list items in 2 or 3 column layout. I feel the pattern I've using looks quite "blah."

Sample layout:

Browse by Featured Topics
[Image, heading 1] [Image, heading 2] [Image, heading 3] [Image, heading 4]

Browse All Topics (listed in alpha order)

Link one         |  Link Nineteen     |  Link thirty seven
Link two         |  Link Twenty       |  Link thirty eight
...                     ...                    ...
...                     ...              Link fifty      
Link eighteen    |  Link thirty-six   |  
  • I've tried breaking up link heavy page by showing Featured Topics and corresponding related images at top
  • each item links to it's own info page (link heavy page)
  • each topic heading is only two word max

I've been using using font-size, line-height to display these items in an unordered list.

Does anyone have any creative alternatives to display the above data?

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UI is visual - try adding an image showing your layout and you might get some good responses –  Zabba Dec 21 '10 at 1:06
1  
What kind of topics are we talking about? Do your users really want to read through a 50 item long list in order to find a topic to browse through? Do they know in advance what they're looking for and they just have to find it in the list, or might it have a different name than they anticipated? –  Rahul Dec 21 '10 at 10:49
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2 Answers 2

Grouping
If the data can be grouped in any way, do so.

Interactive List
If users is to pick one of these frequently:

  • A Quick Search (like Windows Vista start menu or Google Instant Search) (prevents reading through the list)

  • Allow to "hightlight" some items, or to "pin" them to the top of the list. (creates a personalized list of favorites)

Alphabetic sort
At the very least, sort alphebetically (or in another order, if that's more obvious), provide letter separators, and do not wrap letters around columns.

Letter Separators don't need to take a lot of space, as in this:

alt text

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One thing to keep in mind when ordering is that the assumption is made too often that humans can easily grasp data order in a conceptual manner.

An example of this would be displaying the United States of America based on region, ie...East/West/North/South. While there may be individuals that grasp this concept immediately, many wouldn't. More often then not when you over think a UI problem you end up with the wrong choice and something that has over complicated the situation.

Alphabetical with the option of an active search as you type filtering out the values not associated with the search. Those have both become the defacto in terms of ordering data and are hard to argue with.

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