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I'm designing a B2B web-app with a lot of tables and dense information.

Each page has a header that can contain:

  • Page title
  • Tabs
  • Action buttons

We're using a sidebar navigation that shows section's titles when you hover. Without hovering it's just icons (I'm not a big fan of this but can't change it)

enter image description here

Should the header be sticky?

  • On one side, I don't think it should because its elements don't need to be visible at all time and pages are not too long.

  • On the other side, since by default the section title is not visible due the sidebar behaviour, having the title always on screen can help orient users.

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  • I'm not a fan of hovering the sidebar navigation either. It's a challenge for users to navigate. I still have questions about whether to hide or not to hide the action buttons. They are quite important, when the user is not in track of where to navigate the next step, it might be confusing.
    – Ivan
    Sep 28, 2023 at 7:21

1 Answer 1

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These days, you don't always have to design applications in a way that has to behave one way or the other. In fact, this is not even a new concept or practice to allow users to customize the behaviour of the application to suit their particular needs or use case. I think this was quite a common practice in desktop applications (at least when I used to work on them), but it seems more difficult to implement this in web applications.

I think that for an application that can be information dense and contain lots of tables, you want to give as much space to the data as possible, especially if the viewing area is not very large. Therefore, not having a sticky header can definitely save you a little bit of room to show more important things if the user doesn't have to switch context or screen very often. However, for the opposite reason, you may want to have a point of reference for the user, or if the viewing area is large enough that you don't need to try and save room.

Unless you are able to make this determination for the user (i.e. you know the screen size and how they are going to use the application most of the time), I think it is better to let the user decide how it will work for them. But since you already mentioned that the sidebar navigation isn't something that you can change, that probably means you are being asked to lock in a decision rather than designing something that will probably be better in the long run.

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