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The use of a tile or card design pattern to present information as a replacement for the conventional list and table view presents a rather interesting challenge for programmers when they have to implement a sort/filter function on these elements.

In the context of a multi-column layout on a full screen desktop view, is there a convention for sorting the tiles. It is possible to sort them from top to bottom then move to the next column, or sort them from left to right and down across each row.

Is there a particular convention used for different types of information displayed in the tiles, such as navigation elements (like the Windows 8 start page) or to show snapshot information (like the Windows Appstore or iTunes store)?

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Sorting left to right, then down to the next row, is typically the convention. I see two main reasons for this:

  • Content is usually restricted by width, but it may expand down, requiring scrolling. A vertical-first sort would require repeated scrolling down and up to see the content in order.
  • Left-to-right and then down is the way text is presented. This makes it a strong convention for ordering, since this is what users will find logical, and it will be the way they naturally tend to scan content. (Note: traditionally, some East Asian scripts were written vertically first, as well as right-to-left. However, they increasingly tend to use the Western alignment, particularly on computers).
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