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Does anyone know of any articles or write ups around this topic? I can't seem to find any resources around this.

Think different users in the same organization that can see the same page of an application but because they have different permissions, content is displayed/organized differently.

User A and User B are using the application for different purposes but can both have access to the same page of the application. Feature 1 is crucial to user type A's workflow, so it's more front-and-center. While for user type B, Feature 1 is hardly used, so it's tucked away in a junk drawer button or website footer.

My concern is that these inconsistencies in the UI would cause confusion if User A ever saw User B's version of a page. Additionally, if a user's permissions change, now a familiar page becomes very different.

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  • Would you be able to share a mock up of the thing you're working on? It would help a lot. Aug 25, 2020 at 13:20
  • Consistency is a relative term in the context of UI/UX design. You can be consistent to something but as a result become inconsistent in other ways. In your case the consistency would be the link between user permission and content presented, but the inconsistency would be the difference between how content is displayed between different user groups/permissions. The optimal design could be to apply a matrix of roles and tasks to structure pages and contents so it falls into nice and neat pages/sections.
    – Michael Lai
    Feb 23, 2021 at 5:41

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There are a couple of scenarios (which may or may not apply in your situation) that I can think of which would create some potential design issues if you want to organize content based on permission/access in this way, which you have already mentioned. My advice would be to limit the display of content at higher levels for role based permission (e.g. admin should only see admin pages, and not admin features on a general user page), and if there are task based permissions within roles they can be switched on or off within the sections of a page.

Keeping this in mind, there are already a couple of alternative strategies used instead to deal with the display of content in similar scenarios (e.g. as used in intranet) that work equally well whether you apply the permission on a role or task basis.

First example is to use a dynamic or data-driven process to determine the content that is displayed. This is not as good for new users, who may be looking around and clicking on different things trying to find what they actually want. However, over time the most used features and most viewed content will be consistently what is displayed. Variations to this type of content display strategy include:

  • Recently viewed (constantly updated per defined period of time)
  • Most viewed (within defined period of time)
  • Pinned items (that persist and overrides the data used to generate the content)

The second strategy is to let the user control the way content is displayed and so there is no surprise or change at all. But how the content is presented to them to choose, and how the configuration is done can all present challenges as well. And this strategy is possible when there is really good IA in place to facilitate an effective search or browse experience.

One other strategy to consider is somewhere between the two, where you can define specific structures or concepts in the user interface (e.g. bookmarks) but leave the organisation of that space to the user (e.g. by allowing them to tag or mark certain content). An example would be the organisation of links in a browser via a bookmark manager that has features like favourites or folders for further organisation.

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    If there a few admins then you can offset their more complex interface by providing them targeted training, so the UI doesn't have to do all the work.
    – PhillipW
    Jul 23, 2021 at 16:42

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