I have a list of divs that contain various pieces of data (name, type, date, etc). I want to offer the user the ability to sort this list by a list of possible properties (the name, type, date, etc.). What are some methods for this? Would a simple dropdown at the top be enough? I am trying to convert this from a table where the user simply had to sort by a column, but really the type of information is less appropriate for a table and more appropriate for a listing. If you need a visual example, think of the twitter stream. How would I want to offer the user the ability to sort that information by the person (only an example)?


  • I'm not really sure what you question is... are we talking about a filter, such as a hash-tag in Twitter? – Benny Skogberg May 11 '11 at 16:37
  • I am not talking about filtering, I am talking about sorting. If the twitter example is bad, then think of the stackexchange sites. Each answer is its own div. Each answer has a number of things in it (the user, the points, the date entered, etc.). If there was a way to manually set how those are sorted (points, date, user, etc) how would that be presented to the user? – Dan Appleyard May 11 '11 at 16:50

In situations where there are no columns you could choose either a dropdown on the top right that says 'order by:', or, like stackexchange does, define some predefined sortings and provide them in a tab-like manner.

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A simple choice of sorting is sort either by this, or that, or that. On SE, most users give just one answer, and the time is accurate to the second, maybe deeper in the background, so you mostly get a definite sorting. Sorting up or down can be a second control, but sometimes you need to specify which is the second/third criteria for sorting, if the order isn't definite by the first attribute.

Then you can end with sorting the list of attributes, taken for sorting, first, each with the option to use ascending or descending order.

You can either go for an exhaustive solution, present every possibility to sort, or decide, that in your semantic field only few sortings make sense. A few possibilities would fit well into a drop-down list.

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I'd suggest listing the sortable properties as clickable links. Similar to the SE approach, but without the tab-like formatting. Make the current sort the first element in the list. You could present it at the top of the page like breadcrumbs, or at the bottom of the page like a footnote if it isn't something you think your users will use much.

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