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Assuming I have a form with a drop-down list and an "Advanced" button. The last button should be enabled only if certain options are selected in the drop-down list. enter image description here

Now I'm wondering whether to disable the "Advanced" button when the other options are selected, or just make it invisible. What's the best practice?

I think that if I disable it, there could be some users that might think it's a bug and this the button should be enabled, and then ask me why it's disabled.

Thank you

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4 Answers 4

Generally speaking, disabling the button can be better for aesthetics as well as users recognizing that some options in the list will have more settings. Windows does this in the audio settings (the Advanced button is disabled if the device has no advanced options.)

Disabled Enabled

However, your concern that users may think there is a bug is valid. The question is how frequently will the button be disabled? If the majority of your options use the Advanced button, users will be able to tell when their current option doesn't support it. If the majority of your options do not use the Advanced button, users may be confused and think it is a bug. If that is the case, you will probably be better off hiding the button or presenting it in a new way altogether.

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Is it important for the user to know there is an advanced option for some cases? If not it's always better to get rid of things which you're not using in your interface and show them only when it's needed.

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I would challenge the assumption that "it's always better to get rid of things which you're not using". In some cases it's better to leave the button active (clicking it can tell the user why it can't be used), or sometimes disabling it is a better option (for example to prevent menus from changing too much depending on what the user has done before entering the menu)... –  Henrik Ekblom Mar 25 at 13:23
    
@HenrikEkblom I agree with you on that. Some things should be kept consistent so users can recall actions. In the above scenario though I think the availability of an "Advanced" option will be more clearer when it appears after the user makes the selection. –  nuwa Mar 25 at 13:33

Check this similar discussion, I shared my opinion there. Is it better to prevent a forbidden action or display an error/explanation message?

If to adapt it to your question, disabling the button implies that it may be available in some conditions, in this case, by changing the selection in the drop-box. Not showing it at all, users might miss this 'hint'.

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As a tangental issue the idea of 'advanced' options is out of date. If you read Alan Coopers books he puts forward a view (one that I agree with) that users cannot be guided by skill level as nearly everyone can be classed as intermediate after they have used something for the first time.

In short - 'advanced' is an unhelpful term and that something along the line of 'more options' is more accurate.

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