Is there anything wrong with having a 2 column search result set?

I have a list of Customers and Contacts.

Each result has a lot of information:

Name, ID, Status, Location, Last Modified, Display Name, Phone

Because of the amount of information, I've returned the results into something similar to: http://jobsearch.monster.ca/jobs/?q=developer&cy=ca&where=toronto

My only issue now is that is that the result has so much white-space that it becomes a little difficult to read. Unlike the link above, I do not have a massive advertising at the side.

The solution I thought of was to return a multicolumnn result.

But now as I type this, I'm thinking sorting may become difficult for the user.

  • 3
    We're going to need a lot more to go on here. What do you mean by 2 column search result set? Where are you using it? What sort of content is returned? How much information is returned? – JonW Mar 18 '14 at 15:54
  • What would you need them for? I currently have an application which will deliver two types of search results (from two different databases), but I think we are going towards displaying them below each other. No user reactions yet. – Rumi P. Mar 18 '14 at 15:55

There is nothing wrong with multiple columns of search results. The precedence is there as tons of sites and apps do this:

  • Image search in Google has multi-columned rows
  • Friend event invite-search in Facebook has 2+ columns
  • Pinterest search shows in a multiple columned, responsive masonry view
  • itunes album search in gallery mode shows in a grid
  • Springpad user search shows in columns, item search in a grid
  • etc.
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  • 1
    I don't know if I fully agree with you on this one. Google doesn't use columns with image-search. Yes, they place several images next to each other, but you can't speak of separate columns. Pinterest uses real columns, but they rely on the fact that there isn't a specific order of items. The grid itunes uses is only applicable when you know for sure that every item in the list is going to take an even amount of space. – Ruudt Mar 18 '14 at 18:09
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    @Ruudt I'm not sure your argument warrants disagreement. Each of these examples are using a columned approach to show results all in different ways. Some are fluid in width (Google Image), some are fluid in height (Pinterest) and some are rigid in both (itunes). I did write the answer before OP edited with more info, but that doesn't change the fact that there are plenty of ways to represent search results whether it's a single list, fluid rows/columns, or rigid grid. I'm not arguing OP should implement anything other than a list, but I am saying that the precedence to do so is there. – rgthree Mar 18 '14 at 19:23

Columns, although they allow more data to be displayed, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  • Make sure the reading direction is clear. What item comes after another or what item is more important than the other.
  • If the items vary in size, it can be hard to control the white space between items (next to larger items)
  • As you have pointed out already: sorting can be a challange
  • What to do with results that don't fit on the screen? Will the two columns be extended in vertical direction or is there a third column outside of the screen estate? The choice about the reading direction also influences the expectation of where invisible items will be.
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