Anyone have guidelines (ideally backed up by scientific study) for the best way to format data in lists/tables/grids? I'm arguing with my group about name formats--I think we should always display first name first, but I also want to sort only on last name; their argument is that this is confusing to users, and I concede that when the name column is sorted, formatting as last name first may be legitimately easier to scan. But I insist (without anything to back up my claim) that first name first is otherwise a more natural way to present names.

So then what about dates? Given my user group, I'd always want to display good ol' American MM/dd/yyyy, but if we follow the logic of the formatted name, maybe we should be doing yyyy/MM/dd, at least when the data is sorted.

And what about more complex data? We have an address column, for example (all within the same state), that I was sorting city, zip, street name, house number. I don't see how anyone could argue for formatting that data the same way it's sorted. Any guidelines?

  • All of this data is very relative in how you display it. In the US, it's more common that first name is shown first, however, if you were in the middle east, last name is more important than first name. So, what are your users telling you about formatting names? Who are they? Sometimes it's a good idea to see what users are expecting and cater to them. As for dates, why not follow the convention of the "standard format" which is MM/DD/YY.
    – UXerUIer
    Oct 5, 2015 at 15:42
  • The problem with the question is that it contains more than one question. If you narrow it down to the question that you're most interested in, it can be reopened. Names, dates, and more complex data have different answers, so pick which matters most to you of those.
    – JohnGB
    Oct 5, 2015 at 18:39

1 Answer 1


You can take inspiration from the ecommerce platform 'Magento' and how that works. In the admin area you have a consistent grid (whether looking at customer details, orders, invoices etc.) and a consistent user interface for sorting these grids - click on a column heading and it sorts by that column. Click on it again and it does a reverse sort. You can also refine your results by putting a search term in the column heading, 'Andrew' in first name will just show everyone called Andrew.

Also try to use something like an email address or a phone number as the effective primary key.

This interface also allows some columns to be composed of multiple fields merged together, e.g. the address field is one column in the grid overview, you can then see the individual fields if you edit the record.

The search by column heading way enables address fields to be searched from this grid in an effective way. If you were looking for 'Springfield' in the address, some might put that in the town/city box, others might put it in the street 2 line. With the way Magento does it you can search addresses as if they are one field and therefore not miss anything.

Also take a tip from Magento on date presentation. If you want the date shown backwards, i.e. USA/Myannmar/Liberia style, then you can select the locale in the footer to be 'Simplified English (U.S.)' or, if you want a more international format, then you can select another locale, e.g. French, English, German etc. The date will then be shown correctly for the locale.

Google/Bing! for a Magento demo store with admin area to explore. Have a look at how it works. This may not suit your needs however this interface has remained unchanged since 2008 and there is no profusion of 'aftermarket themes' so it seems to be standing the test of time.

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