I am programming a map and should organize the names of regions in some order. I did alphabetical order, but maybe it is not best. The list is graphically event-driven, changing the colors of a pop-up map.

Is it better to organize the names in geographical order from the north of the country to the south of the country? It would seem more logical if you don't know where to look on the map when you select a country.

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    You say the geographical order could be better for situations where you don't know where to look on the map after selecting the country. If you don't know where it is on a map, how would you find it on a geographically-ordered list? You point out that the map highlights when you select an item on the list, immediately showing you the geographical location. One should not need that geographical knowledge to find something on a list. – Nuclear Hoagie May 3 '17 at 20:11
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    Agree with @NuclearWang, I would suggest alphabetical order is the default because based on the country´s name you can always infer where in the list it could be. Geographical order can get tricky and confusing – UX Research May 3 '17 at 20:13

I see a few possibilities depending on your context, or depending on how the user is interacting with the map.

1. Group items geographically, and then sort alphabetically

If you group the locations by some other dimension like region or cardinal direction (Northern, southern, southwest, etc.) you could help a user get to what they want to find faster if they are using the list on the right. If I'm looking to target ads in a certain part of the country I'll know where to look as well.

By segmenting the whole list another level you could potentially find what you want faster.

2. Sort them all alphabetically

The method you are using now could be just fine if it stays relatively short.

If you plan on expanding the system to include more countries/cities/provinces it would be helpful to use a consistent style that could accommodate a larger list.


I would definitely stick to keeping it alphabetical, unless you have clear data or user research that says not to.

It's a little difficult to know specifically without a bit more context. Will your users be selecting a region as part of registering an account, entering their address, booking an event, or something else?

For instance, if your data/research shows that the majority of users are more likely to select one or two regions from the list compared to the others, you could try placing those first in the list, then listing all the others alphabetically below that.

Many account registration forms do this. For example, they will place United Kingdom and United States first in the list, then list all other countries alphabetically. They do this because, in this example, they know that the majority of users are likely to choose one of these countries. Therefore, it's easier for these users to have them listed at the top, rather than having to scroll through a list of 150+ countries.

Finally, I would be vary wary of allowing users to choose regions by clicking on the map directly, for a few reasons:

  • Awareness of geography: not all users will be able to identify where each region is on a map.
  • Accessibility: some users may be elderly, have poor eyesight, or difficulty with fine motor skills. Choosing regions on a map is difficult for such users.
  • Region size: some regions may be very small in your map, being only a few pixels in size. They will increase chances of errors and could cause frustration.
  • Device support: It will be very difficult to implement this for touchscreen/mobile devices without some sort of pinch/zoom functionality. This will likely be expensive to develop.

Hope this helps!


Considering you have three columns:

  • displaying north-south as top-bottom, from first column and then continuing to the second column breaks the relation.

  • displaying all the regions from the top of the columns and going down will end up creating situations where regions are in the same row but not correspond to the same latitude.

I think this kind of representation could only be helpful in situations where:

  • the map has a very clear direction (north-south) over the other (east-west) and you use only this main direction for the legend (top bottom). Check this image as an example.
  • the legend represents very accurately both directions.

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