User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a data table that can sort/filter columns, but there are certain columns that can't be sorted or filtered. I'm trying to find the best way to indicate to users which columns they are with the least amount of steps possible. Ideally, I would like them to figure it out without having to hover over the column headers.

Here are some of my ideas:

(Note: Sortable/filterable columns have an underlined column header on rollover)

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Here's an idea on how to make column A and B look sortable (buttons, pushable). Column C is in a disabled state, meaning interaction isn't possible. You really want to avoid forcing the user to have to roll over the headers to discover which ones that can be sorted and which ones that can't.

Sortable columns

share|improve this answer
This is a good idea. I like the "disabled" column header state. – Vinson Jan 21 '14 at 17:28

The simplest and the most intuitive way to distinguish similar elements' roles in the UI is to emphasize the active ones, and make the other ones look what they are - not clickable elements. Try to focus on emphasizing the sortable collumns' headers, and, e.g. lower contrast/opacity for the not sortable ones.

Good luck,


share|improve this answer

Why not use the down arrow ▼ that appears in the first column for the active sorted column and something like ▽ for inactive sortable columns?

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.