Indicating secondary and tertiary sort order

20 Jan 2010 - 1:04am
4 years ago
5 replies
1610 reads
Dimiter Simov
2006

Hello,

In table views (grids), our CRM web app indicates the column that provides the sorting order by inserting a little A-z or Z-a icon. The app remembers the columns that provide the secondary and tertiary sorting order but does not indicate them in any way on the interface. When designing the interface, we took it as a deliberate decision.

Now we have a few users who want to see which columns provide the secondary and tertiary sorting order. I looked through the pattern libraries but did not find anything. I also searched the web.

So far, I have these options:

1. Lighter gray of the triangle indicating the secondary sort order column - http://www.haiku-os.org/docs/userguide/en/attributes.html.

2. Numbers in the indicators - http://seriss.com/people/erco/fltk/tmp/sort-arrows.png

3. Arbitrary color - http://www.flickr.com/photos/msimov/4290040510/

I do not particularly like any of these options. Neither is a natural indicator – users need additional information to understand what the images, colors, or numbers mean. I will appreciate suggestions and/or links to information.

Has someone tested how users react to multiple sort-order indicators in a grid?

Regards

Dimiter Simov

Lucrat Ltd. <http://www.lucrat.net/> www.lucrat.net

Netage Solutions Inc. <http://www.netagesolutions.com/> www.netagesolutions.com

Comments

20 Jan 2010 - 9:51pm
Arshad Tanveer
2008

I understand your point, Dimiter. And I couldn't think of anything
better too (would be following this thread for ideas). However, how
big is your user base? If it is not into thousands, can't they learn
the meaning of the numbers within triangles (a tooltip can help) over
time? If a common metaphor doesn't exist, perhaps you should build
one.
My only suggestion would be to show a slightly offset triangle under
the numbered triangle for secondary and tertiary sort columns. This
way you have additional visual cue that the sorting is not primary.

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27 Jan 2010 - 10:47am
Ivan Bachev
2008

Hello Dimiter,

To me it sounds that your users might got confused when the sorting
order assigned by the application is in a conflict with the natural
(left %u2013 right, first - last) order of the table columns %u2013
so they request additional indication for the order.

If that is the case, as long as the visual representation of the
sorting order is always in sync with the order assigned by the
application you wouldn't need to provide additional indication for
that order.

You can add functionality to the application to display the table
columns in the assigned sorting order and give the user the ability
to set custom sorting order by dragging the table columns.

Here is an example :
http://www.extjs.com/deploy/dev/examples/grid/array-grid.html

Regards,
Ivan Bachev

http://ivan.bachev.com

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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28 Jan 2010 - 6:20am
Dimiter Simov
2006

I do not understand the example. Do you suggest that the sorting of
the grid should change when users reorder the columns?

If yes, I disagree. The order of the columns (left to right) must not
interfere with how the data is ordered (top to bottom). These are two
separate things and users can control both. They can reorder the
columns (horizontally) and they can sort the rows by any column
(vertically).

That's exactly what happens in your example. Unfortunately there is
just one sorting order indicator, and I need examples with three.

Here's our latest cut -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/msimov/4310664851/. We tried graying out
the secondary and tertiary icons but users thought the grayed-out
icons were inactive.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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28 Jan 2010 - 10:27am
yahvuu
2010

Hi Dimiter,

i don't think that multiple sort-order indicators are worth the
clutter. The search order can already be checked by looking at the
data.

Given that the data wouldn't contain enough duplicate fields to
check the search order, why should the user care in first place? If,
however, enough duplicate information gets displayed that users
indeed care of tertiary sort order, then i guess a different
visualization scheme should be considered in order to remove that
redundancy.

In case tertiary sort order is really vital for your table, you'll
also need a better interface to manipulate that sort order.

For example, consider changing tertiary sort order from ascending to
descending: this task amounts to playing a piano piece of five clicks
on the table header.

some brainstorming:
http://yahvuu.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/tablesortorder.png

regards,
peter

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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28 Jan 2010 - 11:49am
Ivan Bachev
2008

Hi Dimiter,

The example was to illustrate my last sentence - regarding the
functionality to order columns by drag and drop.

The idea is to always have a sorted table - with the vertical sort
priority set from the first column to the last. When the user wants
to change the sort order can simply reorder the columns by dragging
them.

Sounds intuitive to me and easy for visual orientation within the
table data .

Good luck!

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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