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I'm developing a user-driven sandbox application, wherein the user (more or less) builds their interface. In my preliminary web design drafts, I've found myself favoring a contextual content area at the top of my application.

The idea would be that if you had a menu:

Feed | Settings | Logout

and the user clicked Settings, the contextual area beneath it would load the settings for the current page, along with another menu for navigating to the alternate "context irrelevant" content; eg. The user is on the "Shared Documents" page, and clicks Settings:

Feed | *Settings | Logout

*Shared --> Account --> Privacy--> ...

  • Shared Setting 1 - (Value)
  • Shared Setting 2 - (Value)

Once Settings has been clicked, the shared settings are loaded along with the Settings menu above (granting access to the settings for other parts of the site.)

If a user were to click Privacy, the context sensative area (coined "the stage,") fades out the current content, slides the menu over so that Privacy is now in a prominent position--culminating with the privacy settings fading in:

Feed | *Settings | Logout

*Privacy --> Shared --> Account --> ...

  • Privacy Setting 1 - (Value)
  • Privacy Setting 2 - (Value)

I've seen similar conventions at work on the mobile platform, yet none come to mind for the web. Can anyone share their thoughts on why something like the above may not be more prevalent in web UI/UX architecture... because it appears to suit my needs perfectly.

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What is the significance of having arrows pointing between different types of settings? – Rahul Apr 8 '11 at 9:19
@Rahul - To symbolize that their position changes (slides)--think Windows Phone 7. – jlmakes Apr 8 '11 at 9:24
I'm a little confused. Are you're describing making a web site behave like an App in a "psuedo" development GUI? If so, it may be that just changing positioning as you're describing can be challenging to make accessible with tabbing, which a lot of power users do, and probably for assistive technologies too. – Susan R Apr 13 '11 at 23:12

2 Answers 2

I really enjoy your idea.

I don't see why it would not work on the web, especially as users are trained to navigate in this fashion on their phones.

Just remember not to carried away with your transitions. You talked a lot about sliding and fading. These should all happen extremely quickly. Users don want to wait, even if it looks nice the first time.

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Not all users are 'trained' to work this way on their phones. The vast majority of the world's web users don't have smart phones, particularly when you limit that to touch screens with gestural interfaces. – jameswanless Apr 20 '11 at 19:17
@ jameswanless Thats why I said " users are trained" Guesters are wildly successful because they are intuitive. My parents and friends parents have iphones and learned extremely quickly how to master it. Coming from people who call me to "set up the dvd player" (which involves plugging in two cables and switching to the right input" haha – jonshariat Apr 20 '11 at 19:22

I think that defaulting to certain Setting based the user's current page is a great idea, and there's nothing wrong with the content sliding in and out, but I would avoid having navigational elements changing location.

If a user knows they want to get to the Privacy settings, the link to that would be in a very different place depending on where they are on your site, which would make the user pause and have to think.

A site's navigation should be consistent, something that your users can count on to do what they expect.

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