The scenario: An enterprise software product has a heavy navigation system and a vast amount of functions. It's important to keep the number of primary-level tabs at a minimum, because the menu is already quite large.

There are a lot of functions that are set-and-forget, which can be performed by an administrator in a central location (example: add a new user to the system). These functions will go under an Administration tab, and only be seen/accessed by those with the administrator role.

There are also tasks that are performed daily by regular users, and also centralized (where it makes sense to manage them without their becoming part of another domain in the app), such as managing all contact records in the system. My solution was to put them under Administration and role-base them, but our team feels very strongly that our users in non-administrator roles wouldn't look for them there. They're pushing for another primary-level tab called Maintenance. (We're in the healthcare vertical and "Administration" is already a word that means several things.)

From past experience, I've found that having two tabs that are similar-ish but different is bad, because users will forget where different items are housed, and digging through menus for items is frustrating.

We intend to do formal usability research around this, but is there a better solution than having two parallel primary-menu tabs for administration-ish functions?

2 Answers 2


As always, user testing will be your best friend here.

Keeping all admin tasks under a single tab seems to make sense from a logical standpoint. "Maintenance" sounds very nonstandard, so I suspect most won't have any familiarity with it—it's certainly not intuitive to me what I would find there.

It's difficult to give advice without seeing the full picture, but it's generally best to have admin actions contextual with role-based gates. e.g. if there's a Users page, the "Add user" button should be on top of the table only visible to admins.

Assuming that's not the case here, I would probably make your label a little more specific to what you're editing, not who you are, so I'd go with something like "Account Settings". (or swap out "Account" with whatever you're editing)


Have you considered going with your original plan of putting all of these role-based functions into the Administration tab, but just rename the tab Maintenance? It sounds like you've already something of an informal ontology with your users and determined that Maintenance is the word that most people in your industry will understand, so it might make sense to go with that, or at least do some brainstorming on a term that could encompass all of these functions and be easily understood by regular users and administrators alike.

Before you get to the formal usability testing, you could also create some paper prototypes of the three versions: Administration only, Maintenance only, and with both terms. Ask a few potential users where they'd look for the app functions, and test the hypothesis about what they would understand before you get deeper into the design.

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