I have a data table that can sort/filter columns, but there are certain columns that can't be sorted or filtered. I'm trying to find the best way to indicate to users which columns they are with the least amount of steps possible. Ideally, I would like them to figure it out without having to hover over the column headers.

Here are some of my ideas:

(Note: Sortable/filterable columns have an underlined column header on rollover)

3 Answers 3


Here's an idea on how to make column A and B look sortable (buttons, pushable). Column C is in a disabled state, meaning interaction isn't possible. You really want to avoid forcing the user to have to roll over the headers to discover which ones that can be sorted and which ones that can't.

Sortable columns

  • This is a good idea. I like the "disabled" column header state.
    – Vinson
    Jan 21, 2014 at 17:28

The simplest and the most intuitive way to distinguish similar elements' roles in the UI is to emphasize the active ones, and make the other ones look what they are - not clickable elements. Try to focus on emphasizing the sortable collumns' headers, and, e.g. lower contrast/opacity for the not sortable ones.

Good luck,



Why not use the down arrow ▼ that appears in the first column for the active sorted column and something like ▽ for inactive sortable columns?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.