This question follows on from my last question here. Is there a commonly accepted wisdom on how to deal with buttons that are not always relevant. The two possible routes and the issues I see with them are

  1. Hide irrelevant buttons (some users will think: "This app is not working right. That/those buttons only show intermittently")
  2. Disable irrelevant buttons (some users will think: "But why is that button not always enabled?"
  • 3
    Disable only if you can enable, hide if there is no point to ever show that button, ever.
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 16:24

5 Answers 5


Depends on the context. If you hide the button the user may feel confused and lost but would remove unnecessary elements from the screen, if you disable the button the user is aware of possible actions and maintains control of the user.

The best way to resolve this issue is to do a user test.

There is another post about it here.


I lean towards disabling unless there's a good reason to hide. If you hide a button that I'm looking for, then I'll waste time (and have to think) searching for it.

To handle your concern around curiosity about why the button is disabled, you could have a tooltip/fly-out offering the reasoning the button is disabled, for example:

Example of a tooltip explaining why a button is disabled


The short answer would be: Hide (=move down the buttons hierarchy). The full answer is below: Disabling a button that is placed in a noticeable position is problematic for 2 reasons:

  1. it's adding to the user's cognitive load while scanning the site in a search for completing some task (e.g. to contact the site's admin);
  2. it will confuse, and probably frustrate the user, when he'll try to press it. This behavior will yield a confusion between:

Did my browser die?

or simply

This site (or in the better case- this button) is probably broken...


Both have their pros and cons, so it depends on the situation.

Advantages of disabling:

  • Users always find the same control in the same place
  • Easier to take screenshots for documents

Disadvantages of disabling:

  • If there are many controls and most of them are disabled, it may cost more effort for users to find those controls that are enabled.
  • If the disabled controls are input controls such as text boxes or checkboxes, users may perceive them as read-only rather than irrelevant.

Fortunately, there are remedies for the shortcomings:

  • Increase the contrast between enabled and disabled to help users find those that are enabled.
  • Add tooltips for those disabled items.

Advantages of hiding:

  • Remove irrelevant items so users can focus on those relevant items, removing noise from the UI.

Disadvantages of hiding:

  • Harder to get screenshots for documents.
  • Different scenes may require different layouts as some of them will be dynamically hidden.


Instead, keep the button visible and enabled. But inform the user when they click it.


  • Avoids user anxiety when buttons disappear or is disabled inexplicably
  • Provides feedback to the user, which enables them to learn how to use the app

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