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If you have several options behind a button with list, how would you sort the options? The button is shown at the bottom of a form, so the list will collapse above it.

Let's say that the options can be divided in groups, and that the group with option 2 & 3 is likely more used than group with option 1 and 4. The group with options 5,6 & 7 will be the least used.

How should the options be sorted:

  1. Most used group is shown on top, with most likely used item at first.
  2. Most used group is shown on bottom, with most likely used item on bottom of the group.

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Looking at the convention you should have the most popular option on top. The user is used to scanning a list this way, from top to bottom, no matter how the list came to be.

Taken from Google Chrome:

Collapsed

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Expanded

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The upper alternative is Open, which would be the most utilized in this case.

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I've gotten this question from an analyst who asked me if important options would not be less far if they were on the bottom. I had my doubts, as you state it too, a list is read top to bottom. It will only take the user longer to get there? –  Kim Dec 19 '12 at 12:51
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Yep, the user won't know beforehand how the items are sorted or even where the item they want is in the list, and so will scan the list. Users will scan from the top. –  Erics Dec 19 '12 at 13:27
    
@Kim as Erics so neatly pointed out, the user will read from top to bottom. –  AndroidHustle Dec 19 '12 at 13:58
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In Methods Engineering (I'm a Industrial Engineer) when you layout work stations or assembly lines, the chosen position for tools, materials, machines and people is influenced by the distance between consecutive actions, in order to gain efficiency by reducing the time you lost in transportation. So, as an Industrial Engineer, I would prefer your second option: the most used actions at the bottom, near the list's arrow I just clicked. But...

As a developer, I know that many users dislikes "inconsistencies". With the exception of Asians and some Europeans cultures, people usually prefer to read from top to bottom and from left to right. And that is a very common behavior in many SO and apps: Just right click on a file in Windows or Linux, and the first few options are probably those what you use most. If I where in your situation I would chose the first option: most used items on top.

There is another related question titled "Why not default a users view to the middle of a sorted list". They talk about alphabetic order, but the I think that the general idea still applies.

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Sort top down

Most cultures read top down. The most important option goes on top because that is where it's likely your eyes will start reading, as you intuitively try to grasp the block of texts.

If possible, the top of the menu is placed at the mouse position. As you mention, it might reposition if it does not fit. But a reposition does not change our reading order.

And what if you one day would move your combobox? Or add another one further up. Would your users have to learn that option sorting depends on the window position of the options?

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