When and when not to list options alphabetically

A good email list for ideas to challenge the, “but we’ve always done it that way” frame of mind.

Jakob Nielsen‘s Alertbox, October 4, 2010:

Alphabetical Sorting Must (Mostly) Die

Ordinal sequences, logical structuring, time lines, or prioritization by importance or frequency are usually better than A–Z listings for presenting options to users.

  • If users know the name of the thing they want, they can usually find it in the list pretty quickly.

People Rarely Think A–Z

For most questions, either

  • users don’t know the name of the thing they want, making A–Z listings useless; or
  • the items have an inherent logic that dictates a different sort order, which makes A–Z listings directly harmful because they hide that logic.

Read more at www.useit.com