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Suppose I have a GPS assistant function that the user can turn on/off.

When enabled, the function has a few options related to it. The user can turn these on or off too, except for the Suggested route option, which can never be turned off. In other words, when the assistant is on, this will always be enabled as well.

enter image description here


On the one hand, I understand that it might be confusing and maybe even frustrating for the user to present a control input that they never can interact with, but on the other hand I do want to show the user a list of all available overlay features.

Is this a design smell? Any ideas of alternative solutions?

Note: The above use-case is a made-up substitute of my actual use-case, which I cannot disclose. The layout is identical, but it's not for a GPS assistant. The options here may seem a bit off for this reason.

3 Answers 3

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I would go for a different solution. This gives me the impression that being able to uncheck that box is some kind of premium feature or something since I can not uncheck it.

Instead of this I would probably just write a short text stating that the suggested route is always shown.

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  • Yes, perhaps I could replace the checkbox with the text "Always enabled"
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 16:12
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This doesn't seem problematic. Another real-world example is sites that ask for cookie preferences. From this site:

enter image description here

There is no way to disable the Strictly Necessary cookies, however, they are displayed alongside the other options. This makes sense because the Strictly Necessary cookies are very similar to the others, only they cannot be disabled. Displaying them similarly allows the user to process the UI more quickly (e.g. User recognizes a list → "oh these are all of the types of cookies").

I would only suggest that you explicitly state that this feature cannot be disabled (Stack Exchange explains this when you click the "?"). You're right that typically disabled items can become enabled, but in this case, explaining that it cannot be turned off may save the user some time and effort.

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  • Huh! A really good example that exists almost everywhere, yet I hadn't even thought of it. Thanks! Though, it might become a bit trickier to implement as my UI has different features with little in common, whereas in your example they are all cookies.
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 16:11
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For similar situations I prefer to use "read only" state of checkbox (like a bullet of unordered lists) that differs from disabled by high contrast, default neutral content color (i.e. the one that is not used for selection indication) and, in your case, it can be just a tick without border. You can use different style (like handwritten tick), and/or also consider adding explicit message "Always on".

The only concern I have is that it is better for recognition (and this "bullet-like" approach of read-only state) to position checkboxes at the left side, before the message.

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  • Could you please post an example screenshot of an enabled read-only checkbox? Preferably an HTML checkbox (not windows or something else).
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 18:26

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