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Location of new items in list

Let's say you have a list of item you can order. When you add a new item should it go on top or to bottom? Did you read any studies about this? What are the best practices?

Problem becomes more complex if:

  • you have a lot of items (on multiple pages)
  • your items are events with a timestamp

2 Answers 2


In order to provide appropriate feedback, the user should be able to see that the item has been added to the list, so whether you add it to the top or the bottom - the list should scroll to show the newly added item.

Now whether it goes to the top or the bottom largely depends on whether the current items in the list are sorted [and the example of an associated timestamp implies chronological ordering].

Most lists of any size should be sorted so that the user can scan the list more easily using an attribute that is meaningful to them - eg by alphabitical order, date, time, etc, so the question is mute if there is already an ordering to the list - you simply insert according to the sorting rules. [then scroll to the newly added item - even if this involves multiple pages - the user sees the new item placed immediately into context]

If there really is no order and the list is completely random, then first or last simply has no significance, therefore take other clues (eg consistency: what do other lists in your application do; familiarity: what do competitors do; history: how were all the existing items added to the list; etc etc). There has to be some reason for the items in the list to be the order they are?

If it isn't already, then I'd suggest that the list is sorted in some way otherwise the list might be differently arranged every time you come back to it and that's a big no-no.

  • i'm talking about lists that are user ordered (with up/down arrows). so new item top or bottom + scroll? Jun 17, 2011 at 14:31
  • Items that are user ordered still may have an implied ordering depending on the context. Consider which way the user is 'likely' to want to shunt newly added items and use the option closer to the greater likelihood, and if possible provide a preference setting. For example, if the items added first are 'most important' to the user (hence chosen first) then subsequent items should be added to the bottom. If the items are added based on some sort of time-related basis then newest or most recent items might go at the top. Context is everything. (Yes, then scroll) Jun 17, 2011 at 15:10

The top or bottom is most intuitive. For desktop- and web-based applications showing a time-based list, the top is preferred (such as with e-mail) based on sorting newest to oldest; otherwise, the bottom. For mobile applications and other places where screen real-estate is tight, the top seems preferred.

Of course, the sort order of your list is important here to ensure an intuitive experience, though I would consider sorting based on target usage as described above. Above all, the user should intuitively know where to find new items and, in most cases, that new items exist. If the new items are not on-screen when added, it might be appropriate to include some visual and possibly audible notification of the additions.

In the scenario where the user sorts the list on an ad hoc basis, I would add new items to the bottom of the list with visual and audible cues to indicate the items have been added. I might also consider a user preference whereby the user can decide if new items are added at the top, bottom or perhaps the currently active list location (the caret, if available).

  • so you say bottom, reasons for doing so? Jun 17, 2011 at 14:47

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