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Most intuitive way to offer manual sorting?

I have a web application that uses many table rows. Each row typically has an ordering field, and the client just put a number in that field to order the rows inside the table. It was pretty basic and simple implementation, and he was fine with it because obviously it didn't cost him very much money for me to program it this way ;)

Now he has expanded these screens to other people, so the usability needs to be improved. What is the best practice usability-wise for web users for reordering table rows?

Some ideas I thought of:

  1. Click and drag the rows and place them in-between rows, highlighting the line of where the row is going to be placed.

  2. Offer Up/Down arrows, and simply gray-out the arrows when it has reached the top or the bottom of the listing.

The up/down arrows seems like the easiest solution to implement, but it would only work after they inserted a row into the table. Is that kind of weird? I'm not sure.

Which option do users find the best? Any other options I hadn't considered?



2 Answers 2


Take a look at jquery sortable : http://jqueryui.com/demos/sortable/. I find that user-friendly.

  • That's a pretty neat little library. I didn't know it existed since I don't use javascript much except for the basic jquery and a few plugins beyond this. Thanks!
    – egervari
    Nov 6, 2011 at 22:44
  • I know this is old, but for the record, drag and drop sorting is great for small-ish lists of items, but with a table of hundreds or thousands of rows, you should probably have another method of reordering available as well. I am looking for that best pattern even now.
    – Mattynabib
    Mar 15, 2017 at 13:40

option 2 sounds better. 1, I can only see being of any use with a finite data source but even them I'm having trouble seeing the point eg "sort my best friends to the top of this list" or "sort my top contact to the top of this list" or "this is my favourite music" cf where the sorting is dependent on subjective heuristics and where col sorts would fail.

btw option 2 best way: place sorts on key attribute columns; you don't need to place sorts on every column


  • Yeah, 2 does seem better. In this case, the sorting is arbitrary. There is no good column to sort on.
    – egervari
    Nov 6, 2011 at 22:44

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