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I'm currently in the process of redesigning a site, and we're proposing to use a list based page to display various different types of content including latest events and news.

When a user first arrives on the page, they will see all the content currently available - for example when they visit the UK page, they will see all UK news / events. They can then use a faceted search to drill down into the content and choose more specific results i.e. by date and content type.

I'm intending to display this content in date order i.e. most recent first. However, dates for events and news are going to be different. Events will be most naturally listed in descending order i.e. the event happening next will appear at the top / first in the list. However, I would assume that News would naturally be listed in the 'opposite' order - in the sense that as you go down the list you will be going back in time to see old news. In effect the news date will be going back, whilst the event date would need to go forward

Perhaps the best date related solution might be to simply list 'update' order i.e. when the content was last edited by a CMS user?

Long story short, I'm hoping that someone can tell me if either of these solutions sound suitable (or a disaster!) or that someone might be able to recommend another best practice solution for this.

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Ordering this content by when it was last edited or updated seems like a rather confusing approach, especially given that users bring a typical news streams and calendar timelines paradigm with them. If not confusing to the user, this would be rather frustrating and require users to learn a different approach to your timeline only.

I tried to come up with an interesting solution for your problem, but the more I thought about it, the more I just came back to my initial thought: Split the different content types into two lists. You could have both lists on the same page if you like, but you should keep the lists separate.

It's not a sexy answer, but websites split out news stories from calendar events because they're different things. When you create lists, they should be of similar items. This also users to easily scan and take in content quickly. If users need to stop and think because they're getting different content types throughout the list, it feels disjointed and the user has to work harder.

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This was meant to be a comment on Hynes (who I want to give my support) but it became too long:

Splitting them up makes a lot of sense. The News section is a feed while the Events section is more of a time table. Mixing them would lead to a non-intuitive plus a some other usability issues.

For instance, when it comes to items like upcoming events, they tend to become more interesting the closer to them you get. Whether they are interesting or not while ongoing might depend but the minute they are over, they're generally completely useless. They tend to go through a couple of discrete states (e.g. Upcoming, Starting soon, Ongoing, Completed). A feed type item, like a piece of news or a blog post, is usually handled as if its priority is declining as the likelihood of the visitor having seen it increases, usually approximated with a most-recent-first approach.

These differences in life-cycles can't be ignored. What I'm getting at is that there is more to it than just ascending/descending sorting; the two types work completely different as they use totally different priority patters. If you mix the types you would have to pick one way of prioritizing and that would basically kill the other content type.

News
Issued spontaneously
Dynamic priority
Continuous interest curve (starts high, goes to close to zero over time)

Events
Issuing planned
Static priority (tied to point in time)
Discrete interest curve (Rising while getting closer, dies afterwards)

  • Many thanks to both of your for your answers - you've pretty much confirmed where i thought this would need to go. I'd not really thought about it in terms of the different interest curves, so that's a great way of articulating it. As the content will effectively sit in a different part of the site, im going to go for discreet feed of Events and push people through to the Events section to find out more on those - i think the original solution was always a little on the ambitious side – Steve May 19 '14 at 12:25

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