I am working on a video sharing application. Would it be best if I allow the user to organize the menu items: e.g.

Home   Videos   Users  Account

User would be able to organize them as:

Account   Users   Videos   Home

Or even cancel out items from the menu:

Account   Users   Home

This is all done using Ajax. Would it provide for a better UI?

P.S. the menu items are not necessarily the same.

  • 2
    What is the goal of this? Does the value of being able to customize their menu outweigh the complexity added to the user interface? Remember, less is more. My initial thoughts are if there arent very menu's I dont see much value added in giving them the ability to hide some items especially if its not something they visit all the time.
    – n00b
    Dec 11, 2012 at 16:55

3 Answers 3


I don't think enabling rearranging the menu items is worthwhile. There are many reasons why (I think) this isn't a good idea but 2 main ones are:

1) It's a feature that's not really necessary, so it enlarges the UI for not much return on investment (investment in design, implementation, documentation, and user learning).

2) It allows the user to lock his/her "keys in the car" by removing critical menu items. Of course you could take steps to ensure this doesn't happen but that adds complexity.

I don't see what problem you're attempting to solve by enabling the user to modify the menus.

  • +1 for "It allows the user to lock his/her "keys in the car" by removing critical menu items" analogy. For secondary or tertiary navigation one could argue for allowing users to personalize however for primary global navigation I'd lock it down to save yourself the trouble. Even if you took the time to handle all the necessary logic to protect the users from themselves, I'm not sure the feature would add much value. Dec 11, 2012 at 16:42
  • Well, it originally ticked me when I got several suggestions from the users that some of the menus in the app should be ordered by alphabetical order to ease the browsing experience. I then went off and thought of this since ignoring the few minority who like the menus the way they are seems a bit unfair. Many thanks for the answer! Dec 11, 2012 at 16:45

My initial reaction to your question was, This smells a lot like what Jakob Nielsen calls "mystery meat" to me, but it is not immediately obvious why. And I don't believe that's a good enough reason not to do it.

I think there are two cases that you need to consider, and some caveats. Rather than give you my subjective opinion, why don't I give you some pointers with which you can decide for yourself.

UI interfaces do exist with "user editable" content. Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, etc. It doesn't matter which you choose; they all allow for customization of menus and widgets. So we know that the paradigm exists.

Consistency is king in all things. When it comes to web sites, people tend to like when things stay the same, as expected, as remembered from their last visit. The web is not a supermarket and you can't move things around hoping that they'll discover something else they also like on their "journey". That said, if your site is more of a functional application than a destination, then I believe you can get away with (nay, enhance with the notion of personalization) this concept. Plus it adds an element of cool and says, "we care that you own this".

However, we also have the problem of "remembering" these settings. Will it done by user account control? What happens when they're not logged in? Is it okay that these menus will be "default" in that case?

And lastly... Does moving, adding/deleting menu items add anything concrete to the user experience? Are there items there that some absolutely will not use? Is it possible to revert back easily in the case of an accidental removal, say?

Hopefully, that gives you some food for thought.

  • I plan on using html 5 local database setting (I hate using server side databases, less functional). The design already includes a small drop down icon that allows the user to re-add items already removed from the menu. Dec 11, 2012 at 16:48
  • How do you plan to make this work with non-HTML5 compliant browsers? Remove the option for those users completely... until they upgrade?
    – Ian Atkin
    Dec 11, 2012 at 16:54
  • If the feature gets lots of positive feedback I'd resort to a cookie, otherwise, I would disable the whole feature for non-HTML5 compliant. Dec 11, 2012 at 16:58
  • Just make sure that this (or any feature) doesn't clutter the interface or distract from the main goal of the site. Also, don't implement mystery meat that may be utilized accidentally by necessary experimentation.
    – Ian Atkin
    Dec 11, 2012 at 17:07

I think this idea is cool. But you must make sure:

  1. User can't move things by mistake or without intention of doing so.
  2. They can reset to default when they want.
  3. You can use cookies to remember user's preference even before they logged in.
  4. If your navigation is already complex please do not consider this idea.
  5. People loves to set their preferences if if its easy to do.
  • It thought out of a lock button to work around the possibility of mistake edit. Otherwise if editing is unlocked, the entire page would dim leaving only the navigation menu. Dec 11, 2012 at 17:02
  • Yes that make sense.
    – Imran
    Dec 11, 2012 at 17:04

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