Skip to main content


Chin, J. (July 1987)
Top-down and bottom-up processes in sorting computer menu system commands
HCIL-87-05, CS-TR-1879, CAR-TR-303

Hierarchical menu trees can be generated by either top-down sorting, i.e. successive divisions of groups of commands into smaller subgroups, or bottom-up sorting, i.e. successive aggregation of small groups of commands into larger superordinate categorie s. Previous researchers have used a hybrid sorting technique employing both top-down and bottom-up procedures together. The present paper examined the effects of top-down and bottom-up sorting tasks separately. Native English speakers, 14 males and 36 females, sorted 25 Automated Teller Machine commands twice. Although sorting time for top-down and bottom-up did not differ, both tasks were performed faster with practice. Top-down and bottom-up sorting tasks were expected to result in different hierar chical trees and mental models: top-down should emphasize differences between commands, while bottom-up should favor similarities among commands being sorted. As predicted, top-down sorting created trees with a greater number of terminal nodes, while bo ttom-up sorting produced trees with a larger mean number of commands per terminal node. In addition, bottom-up sorting generated trees with greater breadth. Moreover, mean breadth increased for both top-down and bottom-up from the first sort to the seco nd sort while depth decreased. Surprisingly, depth was not a factor determining the differences between top-down and bottom-up conditions. Multi-dimensional scaling solutions revealed 3 underlying polarities: 1) object vs. action oriented commands, 2) c hange vs. no change in account balances, and 3) possession of money. Unexpectedly, top-down and bottom-up generated mental models did not converge toward a common model from the first sort to the second sort, but tended to diverge. The results suggest t hat bottom-up trees are superior to top-down. These findings indicate that interface designers should utilize bottom-up sorting in hierarchical menu tree construction.

Evaluation of Visual Analytics Screenshot

Evaluation of Visual Analytics
More information

Tech Reports
Video Reports
Annual Symposium

Seminars + Events
HCIL Seminar Series
Annual Symposium
HCIL Service Grants
Events Archives
HCIL Conference Travel Award
Job Openings
For the Press
HCIL Overview
Become a Member
Collaborating Groups + People
Academic Visitors
Join our Mailing List
Contact Us
Visit Us
HCIL Store
Give the HCIL a Hand
HCIL T-shirts for Sale
Our Lighter Side
HCIL Memories Page
Faculty/ Staff
Ph.D. Alumni
Past Members
Research Areas
Design Process
Digital Libraries
Physical Devices
Public Access
Research Histories
Faculty Listed by Research
Project Highlights
Project Screenshots
Publications and TRs
Studying HCI
Masters in HCI
PhD in HCI
Visiting Scholars
Class Websites
Sponsor our Research
Sponsor our Annual Symposium
Active Sponsorship
Industrial Visitors

Web Accessibility