Alphabetical? Chronological? Best Ways to List Data in Your App

If you’re in custom software development, your app will probably show a list of data somewhere at some point. This could be anything from users to orders to items in your character’s backpack. You’ve worked out how and where to store the data and how to edit and delete it. All that’s left is to display it.

Job done, onto the next story in your backlog… or is it? What order are you going to display the data in?


This seems reasonable. But, what if the data is people’s names? Do you sort them by first name or surname? Display surname first? Is the ordering case insensitive?

When testing this, make sure to see if leading spaces can mess up the nice ordering.


Okay, so let’s sort them by the date of entry. But, does that mean we show the most recent first or the oldest first?

If the data is edited, should this make a difference to the ordering, and should it be based on the last edit?

When testing this, see if timezones can mess up the nice ordering.

So Much Data

Will there be lots of data? If so, should there be some sort of pagination or infinite scrolling?

Not Much Data

What if there’s a case where there might only be one piece of data in a specific scenario? Could or should we make this a special case and have it automatically selected? That way, the user does not have to actually select it since it’s the only selection available.

Most Used

An alternative approach could be to put the most used items at the top if that use case makes sense.


Does your design only cater to desktop users? And, will the data be squashed up and illegible when viewed on a tablet or phone?

User Knows Best

The user knows what they want to do with the list of data so let them sort it however they want  — but does every column of data need a filter/sort option?


Congrats! You’ve decided how to display the list of data. So, now move on to what to do if the user wants to search through it…

I hope this post shows that even a ‘simple CRUD app’ is not really that simple, what data display problems have you come across? Let me know in the comments.



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