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Working on an experience where there are multiple tabs that have forms in them, but they show up only if a user has selected to fill them. There is one form and thus tab by default. Is it a good practice to show only one tab in a User Experience?

Earlier if there is a single tab, we would not render it at all, but now we have to add a small action on the tab bar, and there is no other logical place to put it.

P.S. The cog icon (is a placeholder) is conditional, based on the information the user provides when creating this form. More like a mini popup. If the user doesn't provide some extra information that we ask for when creating the form, there are chances of a single floating tab.

enter image description here

Any thoughts?

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    Guessing that the cog icon is the action - does that enable the user to potentially add more tabs?
    – Izquierdo
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 22:42
  • using the cog as an icon just for depiction :) Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 22:55
  • OK. Does the action in your example control the number of tabs the user would potentially see?
    – Izquierdo
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 14:38
  • no, it doesn't. The icon is optional, it will give contextual informational applicable to all tabs. Something like an announcement. But it can't be portal wide. that's why it was placed on the tabs Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 21:13

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Using a single tab is considered very bad practice. It's basically the same as using a single radio button, or a pre-selected disabled dropdown. If there's no choice to be made, don't use a selection control.

Having said that, this convention originates in the olden days, when tabs actually looked like tabs. In your example the single tab could work just as well as the title of a page/section, and no one would be wise to this, except for digital design professionals. Once you have more than one of those, the visual differences between the active and inactive clarify that these are actually tabs.

Bottom line - it's best if you didn't do that. If your icon can be placed to the right of a tabs bar, it can probably be placed to the right of the title just as easily. But if there's no other reasonable way, this specific design (or similar ones) might let you "get away with it".

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  • thank you for the answer, and for presenting both sides of the coin, tab or no tab. I think I will go with the tab, even if it is single because otherwise I have to move the icon, and it will be harder for users to find the icon if it's position changes based on tab or no tab. Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 21:14
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This feels like it could obliquely refer to the rule of hiding vs. disabling - if there's a chance something could become active, you show it (disabled), but if there will never be a chance of activity, you hide it completely.

If the single tab is there, but the user could potentially add a second tab (like through the cog icon), you'd show it, because that gives information that the single tab could potentially be part of a set. But this isn't the case. A single tab will always be single. There's no second thing for the user to do. So, you'd hide the single tab.

If the tab is being used like a headline – to show the user what the form is about – just show a headline.

Put the cog/action in the top right by the headline, since it applies to all tabs.

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  • The cog is also conditional, based on the information the user provides when creating this form. More like a mini information popup Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 12:18
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Having 1 tab isn't a problem, since it will fill up with options eventually (from my understanding of your question).

You could also show all the tabs but disable the ones that the user doesn't have access to:

Tab list with some items disabled

Then enable tab items as the user fulfills the requirements.

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  • Is one tab a good UX practice though? Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 12:20
  • @harshikerfuffle yes, it is a good practise. if it isn't a bad practise then users will be fine with it. UX best practises are there to NOT give users a bad experience Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 21:58

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