I have a menu with main items and sub items like this:

  • Ferrari
  • Testarossa
  • F40
  • Volvo
  • V40
  • V60
  • Saab
  • 9-3
  • 9-5

I now have this selection in one drop down menu with sub menus, which works but I have three main problems with that solution:

  • The user can't, for example, see that it is a Ferrari when the F40 is selected (since the drop down only show selected menu entry value). Naming all the sub entries "Ferarri Testarossa", "Ferarri F40" etc isn't an opition.
  • The user can't select just Ferrari and get a default model selected.
  • The user can't directly change model within Ferrari if Ferarri is the selected main brand.

I don't think it's a good idea to have 2 (regular) drop down menus, one with the brand and one with the model since the user have to change two menus to go from one brand to another...

The one thing I really would like is a controller where you can either load a default model for a brand (for example, pressing Ferrari shows the first sub item F40), or manually getting to choose the models.

Since it's a generic controller for different situation, the solution doesn't have to be aimed for car brands. A good solution will work for anything with item with sub lists.

Do you have any good suggestions on how to solve this problem?

  • 2
    "Naming all the sub entries "Ferarri Testarossa", "Ferarri F40" etc isn't an opition." - why is this not an option? It might not be perfect visually, but at least it would be accurate.
    – JonW
    Mar 10, 2014 at 13:00
  • Well, it's not an option because the rest of the problems won't be solved. Mar 10, 2014 at 13:07
  • I think some context can help us better understand your problem. Approximately how many brands are you planning to have, and how many models per brand? Since you mention 2 clicks to go to a different brand is too much, how often will users actually do this? Is it something that you do once, or a recurring thing (like a racing video game or a comparison tool)?
    – Lukzen
    Mar 10, 2014 at 13:31
  • Well, in many cases the users will select the brand, and then explore the models. And some times, the user will change brand and explore that brands models. I would like some examples on different ways of going through main entries and sub entries - beside the one drop down menu way... Mar 10, 2014 at 14:48
  • If there isn't a page dedicated to the Ferrari, Volvo, etc, then those aren't a level of navigation--they are merely headers to group navigation underneath. As such, there's no need for 'two levels' of navigation. You just need to come up with a nice visual design to make it clear that those are merely grouping headers of navigable links.
    – DA01
    Mar 10, 2014 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


Not saying this is the best option, but perhaps one to consider. Miller Columns

You could have one drop down that would 'slide' to get to the secondary level to make the actual selection.

Initial state:

Select a Vehicle \/

Once selected

Select a Vehicle \/
Ferrari           >
Volvo             >
Saab              >

And then once they select a make, the makes slide to the left and the models come into view (in this example they selected Ferrari)

Select a Vehicle \/
< Make
• Testarossa        
• F40             

I like miller columns because they are compact, and if the interaction is done well, rather intuitive, IMHO.


Most auto sites already have the make and model separated into 2 drop down menus.

Example: http://wwwa.autotrader.ca


If it must be in a dropdown, why not have the Make's logo beside the Model name?

Similar to:

icon list example


A tiered menu could be a solution for this. If the child menu items appear the moment you roll-over a parent and the clickable menu buttons are visually distinguishable from the non clickable item, I don't think it is a problem that the parent isn't clickable.

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