5

I have a menu dropdown with submenus. I know based on screen sizes that about 70% of the time the submenu will show up to the left of the main menu (as the edge of the screen prevents it opening to the right). The other 30% of the time, it's on the right. Which way should my "there's more options here" arrow point?

submenu open to the left of the menu

Obviously with the current direction it's ambiguous - the arrow points right but the menu opens to the left.

I could leave it and say it's fine for 30% of users, but that seems unideal. I could have the arrow point left instead, but that reads weirdly to me to see Label <. Likewise, having the arrow point down when the menu isn't intended to accordion into the new options is also weird.

Is there any consensus in cases like these?

7

Unfortunately, given the constraints of your design, still show the arrow to the right. Keeping it consistent allows a user to quickly scan the menu to see expandable sections, even if it is slightly unexpected when it expands on the other side. This is also how Windows handles this same issue.

Awkward right-pointing arrow for submenu that expands left

Or, consider alternative patterns.

  • Use a flat menu with section headers — If your menu depth is shallow (meaning it only has one or maybe two sub menus) you might be able to get away with a menu with small section headers that designate your groups of options, instead of using category titles that expand with a submenu.

  • Use an accordion — Perhaps you have a lot of sub-menu items and don't want them all to be visible at once. You could employ the accordion pattern you mentioned that would allow a user to dive into a particular category.

1

Why not a new/different icon?!

Remember that you do not need to indicate a direction! You just need to signify the availability of more options.


UPDATE :

I agree changing a convention comes with considerable challenges. However, I don't think this is how we should look at this case. The question calls an important concern (knowing it opens on the left, why do I still use right arrow?) Do we agree it is wrong? If yes, let's fix it, if not, then why it is correct?

I am not suggesting a certain icon design, I am trying to emphasize that what matters here is signifying that there are more options rather than showing the direction to where they display.

I believe several icons (without directional arrow) could work and users would still expect to see "more options"

END OF UPDATE


*Microsoft doing it a certain way does not mean it is the way!

Check these on-the-fly suggestions:

enter image description here


OR

enter image description here

  • 2
    I agree that we shouldn't just blindly follow how a particular company does something, but I think it's worth considering a well-established convention in option menus. There is a long-standing precedence for how this interaction is handled. I've found examples from pre-2000 of software using the right arrow and showing menu details to the left. Sure, it's possible to change convention, but just expect increased friction for some users who now will not immediately understand how your new design works. – maxathousand Apr 2 at 21:54
  • I agree changing a convention comes with considerable challenges. However, I don't think this is how we should look at this case. The question calls an important concern (knowing it opens on the left, why do I still use right arrow?) Do we agree it is wrong? If yes, let's fix it, if not, then why it is correct? My answer doesn't suggest a certain icon, it emphasize that what matters is signifighing that there are more options rather than showing the direction to where they display. I believe several icons(without directional arrow) could work and users would still expec to see "more options". – Mo'ath Apr 2 at 23:26
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    Perhaps you are right. A good point. – maxathousand Apr 2 at 23:53
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Yes, all menus open to the left, including menu widgets part of latest web frameworks.

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