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A user profile form has a set of checkboxes that determine which departments the user belongs to. The data is stored in a comma-delimited list.

We now have a new requirement: order the comma-delimited list in the order of "primary department" first, "secondary department" second, and so on. Once we have determined an interface for this, users (or a designated representative) will then re-select their departments in the relevant order.

The answer on this UX.SE question seems to indicate that manipulating the checkbox UX would be confusing to users, and so I am unable to determine how the interface for this feature should look.

How do I enable users to select departments in an order of primary, secondary, and so on?

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Drag and drop is a nice easy UX, depending on how many items you have and whether you need to support mobile as well as descktop.

Or, how about just two lists. The list on the left gives all the departments for the user, sorted alphabetically. The list on the right is the ordered list, then you just need a way of selecting items and moving them between lists. This is a common UX pattern.

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In survey forms, selecting and ordering can be done with a series of dropddown.

First dropdown: pick the 1st department among the complete list.

Second dropdown: pick the 2nd department from the list minus the department already selected.

and so on for as many ranks as they should complete.

Another possibility is to use drag and drop as suggested by Steve Jones: the user has to drag and drop the relevant department from a list in empty slots ordered from 1st to xth.

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