I am designing an application which has panel with a list of items. The items in the list can be re-ordered by drag and drop:

Item Re-Ordering Process

The number of items in the list has the potential to be very large.

In this situation, one of the requirements is to be able to allow an expert user to tag the most important items and show ONLY those items, to make the list simpler for beginner users to work with.

I have two possible approaches:

Since the user is already using "Drag and drop" to re-order the list, why not use the same interaction pattern and allow them to "Drag and drop" items to an "Important" box and then hide the "Everything" box, like so:

Drag and drop to Important box process

Or, should we simply use a "Pinned" system, like this:

Pinned system process

The "Drag and drop" design has the advantage of using the same drag and drop interaction pattern, but could be confusing because there can be "two" of the same item. Also, it could take up more space when both boxes are open.

The "Pinned" system is simpler, but has the disadvantage of having the user in a "Show Pinned Only" Mode (Sorry, Tesler!).

My question is:

Considering the information above, which of these two approaches would be the easiest to use and understand?

  • Thanks, it's my first submission. I had seen a few questions closed for not following the FAQ and I wanted to submit a good question deserving of this great forum!
    – daydalis
    Jan 12, 2013 at 12:55

2 Answers 2


Using drag and drop for the ordering makes sense, as it is the simplest way to do it, as well as being easy to understand for beginners.

For the second part, drag and drop is not the simplest method and it will take a lot longer than simply having a pin or star system. Additionally the pin or star system will provide a simpler interface, and you can easily disable the feature for beginner users (if it makes sense to do it). Also many well known applications already use this type of interaction, so there is a frame of reference for people to use.

enter image description here

If you were to use drag and drop for both, I think it would also cause some confusion as now the only difference between the two would be where you release then item that you are dragging. In short the drag and drop method for both interactions would be too similar for actions that are very different in nature.

  • Thank you for the great reply, that's what my gut was telling me... But what about the issue of "mode"? What about showing the pinned items on TOP at all times to remove the "pinned only" mode?
    – daydalis
    Jan 12, 2013 at 13:04
  • @daydalis The mode is a good solution. It is clean and easy to understand and use. Anything that would remove that would complicate the rest of the interactions and make it harder to understand.
    – JohnGB
    Jan 12, 2013 at 13:25

Pinning or 'starring' will be the simplest as is done with Gmail (again a potentially very long list of items). Dragging and dropping makes sense to re-order something but there's no direct relation between dragging and marking something important.

enter image description here


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