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Am using a table to display list of names/addr/etc along with colored backgrounds for 'verified','problem' and 'unclassified'. I've been asked to provide a means to sort by these three classes and am not sure how to offer this.

If I add a column of values for the three classes then sorting is no problem but it's redundant information. The colors are provided for 'status at a glance' and seem effective.

Sorting is currently provided by the standard 'click on the column header'.

Suggestions?

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From an accessibility point of view, if you rely purely on colour coding, the information provided by those colours ('verified', 'problem' and 'unclassified') may be inaccessible (or misleading) to people who are unable to perceive the differences between those colours, either because they are colourblind or are perhaps completely blind. It also makes the information inaccessible to a fully sighted user if they wish to print a black and while copy.

Also, colour coding is an abstracted way of providing information. It's great if the meaning is clear but it only makes sense once you have memorised what the colours represent or if you cross-reference against a key or other instructions. Providing that information explicitly in a column in the table removes that abstraction.

In addition to the colour coding, I would provide that information explicitly within the table, either in text or with an intuitive icon. That would also allow you to maintain the 'click on the column header' sorting method that you describe.

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  • Good points all around. My audience is known and limited so accessibility isn't a (huge) factor here. I'll try an icon column and see how that looks. – ethrbunny Sep 5 '14 at 15:04
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    @ethrbunny I once had a client who thought the same. Then they recruited a contractor who happened to be blind and found they couldn't use their systems ;) – Matt Obee Sep 5 '14 at 15:10
  • @ethrbunny if you're concerned about having two similar columns, you could color-code the background of the values column. – Graham Herrli Sep 5 '14 at 15:25
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    Colors also vary quite a bit depending on the monitor/screen and the lighting environment. – Ape-inago Sep 5 '14 at 19:39

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