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We are in the process of phasing out certain features within our application. We are discontinuing some functionalities. Based on UI/UX studies, should we disabled buttons and menus or we should hide/remove it?

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I think we'll need to take a step back here and start with the question "what is a phase-out supposed to achieve?"

Sure, the end goal is that you can remove the feature completely, but if that's the extent of your consideration, you don't need to phase anything out - you can just remove it. For a phase-out, you need to consider a variety of factors, such as:

  • Timeline - how far in advance to you notify people that the feature is going to be removed? Which deprecation steps are you taking when?
  • Communication channels - where will you notify people about the removal?
  • User action - what should people who use the feature in question do? Are there any alternatives for them to use?

There is no hard rule on what to do when. For massive changes, like the removal of the Flash Player in browsers, this was a process spanning half a decade, but if you're removing niche features, a much tighter timeline is reasonable.

For the buttons in particular, showing a disabled button that does nothing is just weird, especially to new users who now see your app in an apparently dysfunctional state without knowing any context. What you can do though is show a message saying "this feature is going away soon [learn more...]" when accessing the deprecated functionality.

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  • @Joseph If the notification is announced through multiple channels, then it is fair to remove those features. As Leo answered, it also depends how big of an impact these features do. In that case, do you want to give a buffer time for users? If so, then you need to highlight the features and guide them. If not, you can remove them, and probably roll out a notification of alternatives to users who were using those features. Guiding them with what to do next is also important.
    – this.shivi
    Jan 9 at 11:51
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I've seen this done before on other famous websites (I think one example was Amazon). The best solution to your problem would be to add a banner which simply says "let me use the original interface", until you're 100% certain that users will no longer need the functionality.

The issue you might face is phasing out a feature that your users use. I hope you've asked them if they want the feature. That's the point of UX after all.

If you're removing a button, don't leave the button there but disabled, that would confuse new users and annoy experienced ones.

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    FWIW: "Let me use the original" signs you up to support the legacy system indefinitely. Reddit has published a redesign 6 years ago but gave the option to use the old site, and on a subreddit I moderate the number of users using the old site has actually slightly increased over the past 6 months. If the point of removing a feature is to make future development more economically viable, there's a strong need for clear messaging that the user can't keep using it forever. Jan 9 at 12:54

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