What progressive disclosure techniques where the information and options given starts out small and lets the user decide what they want expanded on can I use in a web app?

3 Answers 3


You can do the following:

  • In various situations, for example forms, you can use links:
    The link can say something like "would you like to add this capability?" and once pressed, reveal a hidden section.
  • There's the classic "advanced" approach, which can be implemented as a button or a tab, often more in use in applications.
  • Consider what this site is doing - when you vote up an answer to your own question, the application reminds you that you can accept it as well.
  • A variation, to be used very carefully:
    If it's an application where actions are more spread out, I would consider having some balloons pop (rarely and unobtrusively) indicating something can be performed / is available.
  • Another thing would be to suggest something to the user after he has become more "advanced", i.e. automatically reveal a feature after the user has used a related basic feature several times.


I also like the approach of waiting for the user to express interest in an object, usually detectable by hovering over it with the mouse pointer, and then (after a slight delay perhaps) automatically reveal more options on that object.

  • 1
    I like how you mention that the ballon/popup should be used unobtrusively. I really like how the bar pops up on the Stack Exchange sites across the top (can't remember its proper name) To me it just seems unobtrusive. Where as sometimes I go to other sites and immediately get assaulted with a "please login/sign up" popup. Aug 17, 2011 at 5:33
  • 1
    @James Khoury: I think Notification bar is a decent name for that, although I find that the bar that pops up on the Stack Excange sites across the top is a very good description :-)
    – awe
    Aug 17, 2011 at 6:42

Here are a couple of excellent articles on responsive disclosure:

Pattern Responsive Disclosure

Designing Interfaces Article on Responsive Disclosure

You could also consider looking into the responsive enabling pattern.


For information only (not options)

You can make something like Google Wonder wheel where you start out with a small amount of info and as you click you get more options.

This is not for everything and is limited to browsing large data sets.

Google Wonder wheel

Another option for large data sets is the new silverlight pivotviewer (click launch pivotviewer)

These are both good for veiwing large data sets and have nothing to do with functionality

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