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Admittedly this is a rare scenario, but there are some instances where providing the user with a quick method for hiding a page or navigating elsewhere is needed.

The typical scenario being a non-profit site where the user might want access to information without others becoming aware. That is, if a person were to walk in the room whilst the user is viewing the site, he/she may quickly navigate away.

I'm struggling to find anything in the way of research into this and (although dangerously close to being an oxymoron) what might be the most subtle, yet intuitive positioning for the CTA to be placed.

Two differing examples of this can be seen at selfharm.co.uk and Childline, where the CTA's have been placed above the fold on the edge of the content wrapper, and a fixed positioning on the right hand side of the browser window, respectively.

I have a number of concerns with the positioning of the first example - first and foremost, the CTA scrolls out of view as the user navigates below the fold, therefore defeating the purpose of the CTA entirely. Secondly, it is placed between two other CTA's, and whilst this may have been done for subtlety it may be a little too subtle for the user.

The second example greatly improves upon this, it's fixed positioning means it is always in view and easily accessible. It's bright and does draw the attention of the user. However, it is quite a small target and a user will hurriedly try to seek it, which could prove difficult.

So my question/s is/are:

Where might be the most intuitive positioning for a CTA of this sort?

What might be the most appropriate form for this CTA?

As always, links to any research/articles on this are greatly appreciated.

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2 Answers

Well, in the case of selfharm.co.uk it took me over a minute to locate the button, and that's after I knew for a fact that it's there, so I resisted the urge to give up halfway. So being above the fold is the least of its problems :)

What you're looking for is called "boss mode", it used to exist in computer games and other various time-wasting software, and its goal was to hide the app immediately if you're playing at the workplace and you hear your boss approaching. In some instances that I remember, it wouldn bring up a wallpaper of an excel spreadsheet, for additional effect.

The main requirement of a button like this is to be extremely accessible. There are two ways to go about this. One is to make the button very large, so a user can hit it blindly, with a broad mouse swipe. For this I'd position a vertical bar along the right side of the screen, like a sidebar. The other is to provide a keyboard shortcut, which may be faster than the mouse in some settings. For this I'd write "hit Esc or click here to hide this page at any time" on that sidebar, in big fat letters.

And on a more subjective nitpicking note - I don't think this counts as a CTA. A CTA represents an action that you want the user to do, like "buy now" or "register". It's usually the reason a specific page exists. Hiding the page is merely an action that you think the user might find useful in certain scenarios, it's not the goal of the page.

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Thanks Vitaly - Your suggestion is along the same lines as what I was thinking, although you run into issues when it comes to small screens. I decided to run a bar the full width of the screen, fixed to the top of the browser window. It includes a logo and text to say it can be clicked anywhere, or alternatively the escape key can be used. Thanks also for the point on the use of "CTA", I reluctantly used this as I could not think of what else to call it. CTA was for me, a close alternative that would be understood. –  Daniel Meade Dec 23 '12 at 12:21
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Some requirements

It shouldn't require JavaScript. Visitors of such sites might be more aware of privacy/anonymity and are probably more likely to use NoScript etc.

It shouldn't open a new tab. Otherwise the (abridged) title of the previous tab might give enough clues to the boss. (With JS, we could change the URL of the current page and open a new tab with an unsuspicious page).

It shouldn't load an external page. Otherwise, it could take too much time to fetch all the resources, so it would be clear to the "boss" that you were just surfing to a new page. In case of temporary DNS slowness/problems, it might also happen that the current page is visible until the target domain name is resolved, allowing the boss to have a look at it. (This, of course, isn't possible for sites with suspicious domain names.)

It shouldn't load a page with a totally different design. Changing from a white to a black background would change the light reflected on your face, making it obvious that you navigated.


I think the action needs to be visible all the time. When the boss enters the room, the visitor shouldn't have to think where the option is "hidden". So I'd go with a fixed position. Better not on the left/right top, as the visitors' face might look like he is closing the window.

I'd prefer a sidebar (full height), positioned most left or most right. So when the browser window is maximised, the visitor could blindly lead the mouse to that location while talking to or looking at the boss.

Just moving the mouse to that sidebar could hide the sensitive content via CSS (hover) instantly. Clicking at this sidebar could lead to an unsuspicious page. If the domain/URL doesn't contain sensitive information, I would create a "harmless" page with nearly the same site design on the same domain. If the domain contains sensitive info, you'd have to use an external page.

Which external page

Using Google (in the corresponding localized variant) might be good idea because a) everyone uses/knows it and b) it typically loads fast. But you shouldn't use the front page, as it might be suspicious if the boss sees an empty search slot, although the visitor was scrolling/typing eagerly before. Instead, link to a specific search result page, even better on page 2 or 3.

Another option would be an dictionary entry of a complex/unpopular word (in the same language of the site in question).

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