In our last NOWSupport best practices series blog, best practices for creating and editing forms, we discussed how to create forms that are easy to understand and use. Here we look at best practices for configuring lists so that they are simple, intuitive, and consistent across the platform.
For an overview of list elements and their functions, check out this video on our NowSupport YouTube channel:
Basics of configuring lists:
- Know whether your instance uses List v2 or List v3.
- Understand the difference between list personalization and configuration.
- Five best practices for user-friendly lists.
Know whether your instance uses List v2 or List v3
List v2 is the default version of lists and is supported in all versions of the user interface (UI). Users with the admin role can activate List v3, which is supported in UI16 only. When configuring lists, it’s important to know which list version applies to your instance, because List v2 and List v3 look, feel, and perform differently. See Comparison of List v2 and List v3 for more information.
Images in this post are from List v2.
Understand the difference between list personalization and configuration
There are two ways to change which columns are displayed in a list: by personalizing the list layout and by configuring the list layout. Each user can personalize the list layout by clicking the Personalize List gear icon in List v2, or from the list title menu in List v3.
Changes made in this way apply only to the logged in user:
By selecting Configure > List Layout from any column context menu, users with the appropriate role can configure the list with changes that apply to all users. See Configure the list layout for more information.
Five best practices for user-friendly lists
- Use the record number or other unique info as the first column
- Limit the number of columns to minimize horizontal scrolling
- Avoid displaying fields with complex material
- Be aware of which users have access to related operations
- Limit the number of records per page
Use the record number or other unique information as the first column
Clicking an item in the first column in the list should open a record on the list’s table. That’s why clicking an item in the first column of the Incident list opens an incident record, and clicking an item in the first column of the User list opens a user record. Avoid using a reference field as the first column in a list. If the Incident list showed Caller as the first column, a user might click the caller name, expecting to open the incident record. However, clicking an item in the Caller column would open the caller's user record, not the incident. A previous blog post, Where to avoid linking to a reference field when configuring a list, addresses this in more detail.
Limit the number of columns to minimize horizontal scrolling
Many users find horizontal scrolling annoying.
Avoid displaying fields that contain complex material
List views are intended to provide a meaningful overview of multiple records simultaneously. Fields that contain long strings of text—such as journal entries or HTML, images, or other complex material—take up a lot of vertical space in list views, so users have to scroll further to see more records. So it’s best to avoid displaying these fields. Depending on the instance configuration, users can still see them by personalizing their list view or opening the record.
Be aware of which users have access to the related operations
Review the list controls and list UI actions to understand which users have access to the related operations. For example, if you expect users to create new incidents from a record producer instead of the Incident list, configure the Incident list controls to omit the New button. Here’s how to check list controls and UI actions:
Limit the number of records per page
For performance reasons, consider limiting the number of records that are displayed per page in a list. The available values in the base system are 10, 15, 20, 50, and 100, with 20 selected by default. The more rows per page selected, the more slowly each page loads. Users can list more or fewer records per page from the list context menu:
Additional information on list configuration
- Lists (product documentation)
- List configuration (product documentation)
- List administration (product documentation)
- Configure the list layout (product documentation)
- Comparison of List v2 and List v3 (product documentation)
Behind the scenes here at ServiceNow, the Knowledge Management and Multimedia teams work closely with subject matter experts to disseminate critical information to our customers. We’ve found that certain topics come up frequently, in the form of best practices that can help you keep your ServiceNow instances running smoothly. This series targets those topics so that you and your organization can benefit from our collective expertise. If you have a best practices topic you’d like us to cover in this series, please let us know in the comments below.
To access all of the blog posts in this series, see our NOWSupport best practices series list.