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We have a table that orders results of clients (can be searched on name, address, email, phone, etc.) based on an algorithm, so there isn't a "default" sort we can mark with an arrow to indicate the table is sortable. However, there are two columns that are sortable, but you can only see a sort arrow indicator after you discover that and sort one of them. What is the best way to make this discoverable?

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Tell them with text, or show them with a control.

I don't know what the rest of your UI looks like, but if you need to make it clear, you could try a couple of approaches.

  • A: UI text can be small, and live above the table, telling them what's possible.
  • B: Sort control, starting with your applications 'default' (a tricky word here, I know), can show them that a sort is possible. By using the control, the user can always go back to 'default' (meaning your applications algo sort), which might be helpful(?).

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