# unity-design team mailing list archive

## Re: Let's talk about sorting arrows

• To: unity-design@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
• From: Sam Hulick <samh@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
• Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2014 12:03:26 -0800
• User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.8; rv:24.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/24.3.0

```On 2/21/14 8:14 AM, Alejandro J. Cura wrote:
```
```On Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 9:22 AM, Thorsten Wilms <t_w_@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
```
```On 02/21/2014 11:08 AM, Sam Hulick wrote:
```
```I don't think A-Z is guesswork. Other operating systems and several apps
have already laid out the fact that an arrow pointing up is ascending
order, an arrow pointing down is descending order.
```
```
The fact that you talk about the indicators as arrows already demonstrates
part of the problem. An arrow shows direction, but how does it relate to the
reading/writing direction implied by the list, and what comes first? Small

The other interpretation of the indicators is that of triangles, with a tip
that stands for the start of the sorting alphabet and for small.

Even if you start from the terms ascending and descending, it's not obvious
what that means for dates (time-since-then vs numerical value).

I think this is somewhat representative of what an incredible strong
consensus ;) can be found about the issue:
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/338166/which-direction-should-the-arrows-point-in-a-sorted-table
```
```Some interesting comments there.
I like the one about "A..Z" and "Z..A" for alpha, "1..9" and "9..1"
for numeric, "1..12" and "12..1" for dates.
Perhaps "Jan..Dec" and "Dec..Jan" would make it easier to read, but I
think it's leaps more descriptive than arrows.

cheers,
```
See, I can see the issue unfolding already. :) Thorsten, you might be overthinking it. I don't know if we should be having a discussion on how to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. This discussion we're having is like saying "let's change how checkboxes work." It's a UI standard that people are used to. Imitating how sort arrows work in Windows and Mac OS is a wise move, IMO. Don't get me wrong, I totally appreciate that you find the arrows ambiguous or confusing. My wife and I were talking about it last night and she admits she has no idea what the arrows are, she just clicks the header until the list looks like it's sorted the way she wants it. :) But there are many of us who DO know what the arrows represent, and rely on those visual cues to know if we're sorted to our preference. All that being said, though, I kinda like the idea of a tiny A..Z/1..9/Jan..Dec icon in the header bar. The only issue I have with that is the space it would require. Look at Thunderbird's headers, they're already SMALL.
```
Quick mockup to compare:
http://i.imgur.com/bkVeQjK.jpg

```
It's not terrible, but what if you had a very short header bar like "Hits" and it only had small numbers less than 50? The arrow is much easier to fit in the header bar than "9..1". Just something to consider. And that's a 10pt font I used BTW, I wouldn't go smaller than that. People with visual impairments might find it difficult to read.
```
```
I'm all for making advances in UI design in Unity, like the Dash, for example (which is brilliant). But if Ubuntu hopes to become even more mainstream, I think it needs to have UI elements that provide a safe and familiar user experience. Buttons, dropdowns, checkboxes, sort headers.. these are the core elements I think we shouldn't be tinkering with too much.
```
```
Of course, now that I've gotten to the end of my email, I'm liking the "Jan..Dec" idea more and more. I guess we should put a name to it so we don't keep calling it "A..Z, 1..9". Contextual sort indicators? Since they're based on context, i.e. what kind of data exists in that column. I dig it. I'm gonna post this on the bug report, see what others think. What do the rest of you think of that idea? It's probably the only thing I'd like besides the arrows.
```
-S

```