We are building an application which may have thousands item in the table list. As we decide each page only show 25 item, so there maybe 10-100 pages.

We allow the user click the table column header to sort items, for example, sort by id or sort by email.

We have hot debate for two options:

  • Sort only apply to items in current page. That's means we only sort 25 item when user click once.

  • Sort the whole list.

So which options is more reasonable?

  • 1
    Sorting the whole list is recommended.
    – Awesh
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 8:07

3 Answers 3


I can only suppose usefulness of in-page sorting when each screen contains logically separated unit of data. It could be transactions per day (i.e. per screen), etc. Then Next and Previos screens have strong meaning which is independent (in user's mind model, too) from in-page operations (ordering, filtering, etc.) within the data unit.

In other cases in-page sorting could break consistency in data perception by user and make him lost in the data.
enter image description here
Having default ordering (by AAA) and setting in-page sort (by BBB), default ordering becomes invisible so user should keep it in mind. At the same time recently taken BBB sorting is a visual cue for the whole data ordering. So what does Next page button bring? It's totally unobvious.

  • I'd like to mark this post as answer, because it point out when we can using in-page sort, and when we shouldn't.
    – ZijingWu
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 4:18

Working as a SharePoint consultant where lists are core business, I can say that my users expect all the items in the list to be sorted, not only the items shown.

The reason is that users understand the difference between what is shown (only 25 items) and all the items in the list. Sorting only the 25 visible would be of no use at all.

This list sorting technique is used by iTunes, SharePoint and Spotify - to mention a few...

enter image description here

Fig 1: Sort options in a SharePoint list


Sorting the whole set is the more common thing to do.

If you sort the whole list it means current page is useless to user. You should sort and go back to page one.
If you sort the page it's because the result on the current page already show the final result the user want.

If you want to sort only the current page it must be a user demands. You need to make it really clear to the user that you are sorting only one page and sorting on title always means sorting whole set.

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