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What is the most intuitive / easiest way to sort a list of items? Is it through drag and drop (drag and drop the rows in the order you want) or do something like put a dropdown list beside each row / item with numbers like below:

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This means that if they wanna re-order the items, they click the dropdown and choose which position they want to put this item in. Like very manual.

Which of the two is more user-friendly? The only concern for the drag & drop is whether or not they are recognizable enough as draggable.

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In my experience, using dropdown to indicate the position they want is not intuitive and might create UX friction. User would need to count which row they want the content to be at. For instance, if I select 7, will the item at row 7 moves to position 6 or 8. So, I will not opt for dropdown option. It will be alot more difficult to use if there's lots more rows (>20).

Drag and drop will be useful if user recognize the functionality. Perhaps we can do so by adding a dotted line box at the last row and with some help text as well. "Drag n drop to sort" inside the dotted box. (maybe with an hamburger icon too) Also, if this is to be built for desktop, can consider changing the cursor might help too.

Depending on application, if I would only need to move it up or down once or twice, I might add in the Up and Down arrow too.

  • If drag and drop is not the way, meaning the order number dropdown is better? – catandmouse Jan 3 '17 at 3:17
  • Maybe you can share a little more on the application. In certain cases, index dropdown could be a more viable option too. – SimonTeo Jan 3 '17 at 3:19
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You need to consider a few things here in order to decide which option is better suited. at the same time i think might be better ways and combinations of features to achieve this

  • will this be on a touch device? drag and drop is easier on touch
  • if how long will this list be on average. if its going to be very long you might have to consider other features like pagination or some sorting features to get a rough start on reordering rather than having to reorder from scratch
  • you could also consider reordering group of selected list elements. you could do this with a checkbox to select them or press and hold in the case of a touch screen device

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