I am in the process of designing a new settings part for a section of our Saas. With my non-ux team, we are discussing wheter we should change the overall navigation of this section by removing the tabs and using sub-menu points instead.

For context:

  • The first part is one of the most used of the website which our clients use as well - it's a list of their devices.
  • The other parts (including the new one to be designed) are different parameters related to the devices (e.g. on-off timer);
  • In each page I see the list of existing parameters and can create a new one (e.g. list of timers).
  • All of these other tabs are used almost only by superadmin during the configuration process. So they are all relevant to the section but only for a specific kind of user.

Is there a better option in this case? I am stuck


  • 1
    Are you sure that you're not reducing the question to horizontal vs vertical menus? Are there any other affordances you need beyond the dimension of the menu? Think persistence when you switch parts: of the menu, of the content. Another thing you might want to consider: do you want to drive a resemblance to something users know well: maybe a paper file, which one would be closer to the way these are used in a domain that your users are familiar with?
    – mapto
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 13:49

3 Answers 3


Based on the context you have given, the newer design, i.e. Menu with submenu will be a better fit. This is because most users will only use Part 1 of the application, whereas parts 2 through 4 are used by selected users. Placing the parts in tabs will not benefit majority of the users.

Usually for most applications the features which are not accessible to users should be blocked out (i.e. not seen by users without authorised access) to avoid confusion on the users' side. This is the other reason why arranging the parts with a submenu is neater so that it doesn't seem obvious that some parts are missing.


From my experience Tabs are much more used on Websites, for the representation of the content. And vertical menu is more common in Dashboard style Web applications where there are some options inside to do.

Another advantages of vertical menu would be that you can add more items in the future and that they will be all visible (contrary to horizontal scroll you would need to implement for tabs).


Is there a better option in this case? I am stuck

Which navigation method you should chose depends on how many options the user have. Few options, a horizontal navigation is OK. Many options I prefer vertical navigation. Speaking of multi-level and many options I found that the way Roundcube (web mail) is handling many options is appealing to me. So I have a draft site how to use this navigation in my business:


I find this navigation works both on desktop and mobile devices.

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