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BACKGROUND (USERS: Internal business users.)

I have a sortable task list which has the 4 columns (date, customer, items, cost). But now we want to expand the business logic to include:

  • "IMPORTANT"
  • "PAST DUE"
  • "WARNING ITEM MUST BE PROCESSED IN X TIME"
  • "WARNING ITEM MUST BE DONE IN Y TIME"

I put in an important icon and am color coding the rows to indicate "Past Due", etc...

So far so good. User can sort the 5 columns (now including "Important") and selecting "Date Due" will push the "past due" and warning1 and warning 2 to the top.

Now new business logic has come in which combines relative levels of importance AND time. So a super important item due in a week can be valued above a less important thing that's due tomorrow. When the user opens the page it is presented using this new-and-improved business logic.

PROBLEM: How to return to the original state?

The simplest solution would be to have a "Return to Original State" icon (or text). And that's where I'm stuck. We have SO many icons and SO much data all over the page that I'm struggling on how best to accomplish this.

I could use words (the clearest) but room is limited. I could use an icon - but what? A curved arrow? OK. A "refresh" icon with two arrows in a circle? That's OK as well.

I'm a big fan of white space and I've thought of changing the color of the white space above the heading "Date Due" ... and below the TASK LIST Tabs. It would function as a colored bar (think of a flat button) to return to the original state. But this idea would only be useful if it changes color after the user re-orders the tasks by clicking "Date Due" or "Items" and that would be VERY confusing. (USER: Why did it change color? What did I do? What does it do?)

So. I'm back to the icon idea and placing that in the white space which changes color when the user changed the default configuration of the task list.

I guess I'm just looking for some feedback. Thx.

  • 1
    Add a column priority – paparazzo Oct 8 '14 at 16:41
  • 2
    What is the "original state"? How are things sorted in that view? – Evil Closet Monkey Oct 8 '14 at 16:48
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    @Evil Closet Monkey: Original State is sorted with the new-and-improved business logic. So important items and time are mixed together in way that a simple selection of "Important" or "Date Due" won't work. – Mayo Oct 8 '14 at 16:54
  • @Blam: The column priority is being used for "Important." I could add another. I guess I'm over thinking this in the quest for an elegant solution. – Mayo Oct 8 '14 at 16:56
  • How is a column that depicts this new business logic and also lets them return to the original sort un-elegant? – paparazzo Oct 8 '14 at 17:03
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Without seeing your UI it's hard to say and I can think of several potential solutions.

Using another icon - may not be the best route because I have not seen a common pattern for the action you described. No matter what icon you choose you are still going to be at risk that a small group of people may not understand the icon until they click it and connect the dots on the functionality.

Text link - is your best bet ("reset filters", "reset sort order", "default view" ... ) I don't know which one matches your use case the most as it all depends on the action a link/button will perform and context

Limited space? - I've seen design patterns that convert a horizontal or vertical list of actions in to a dropdown or multiple. This could also be an option based on how much real estate you have available on your page.

P.S. Don't use "Refresh" as it may imply refreshing the list while preserving all filtering and sorting to get most recent data.

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From experience, I'd say if the user reloads the page then everything should return to original state, I don't think you need a specific button to do this as the user can click on the different filters to get whatever sorting he wants.

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