On tree structure website there's always the problem of what contents to put in the parent page, you know, the page that exists only as a point to subpages to attach.

  1. Write some general descriptive text of what to expect on the sub pages?
  2. Write "click menu on the left"?
  3. Generate/duplicate submenu on the page content area?
  4. Leave completely empty?
  5. Something else?

And of course there is the functionality of skipping the parent page altogether, just automatically jump to the first subpage.

Number one has been my preferred choice, but no solution seem free of problems.

Is there a patented solution to this problem that I have missed?

  • Thanks! Good stuff there. This is one of those things that is really hard to google as this "phenomenon" doesn't have a universal name. Mar 21 '14 at 6:17
  • ux.stackexchange.com/questions/16217/… is more about menu functionality and what should happen when user clicks parent menu item. I was thinking more about the actual contents of the parent page. Mar 21 '14 at 9:13
  • What's with "6. Showing excerpts" (similar to 1.)? Sure, It depends on the content. For example, if the subpages describe a compliated technical setup the root page might give a short overview or a short step by step guide with deeplinks to the subpages at the appropriate positions. Mar 21 '14 at 9:45
  • Absolutely. I have avoided that because I have somehow thought it's wasting the viewer's time, "they will have to read it twice", but in case like yours, would be good. Add an answer if you like. Mar 21 '14 at 10:00

Typical practice is to use a combination of 1. and 3. The general descriptive text functions as an introduction. For the duplicate submenu, additional descriptors can be added so it differentiates from the existing navigation. And if the child items have a picture you can use that as a thumbnail as part of the submenu.

If you'd like to leave it empty, I'd suggest making it so the parent link is grayed-out/not-clickable in navigation.

Something else: if the sub-pages aren't too large in number and length, perhaps you can combine them into a single page and use anchors in your navigation to navigate (example).


I often come across this problem. The way I deal with it is by redirecting to the first subpage (as you have suggested as well).

Some problems with the other suggestions:

  • the issue with 1 is that it slows down the user from actually reaching the content he's looking for, which is something that's in one of the subpages. And what content could you put on the parent page that isn't told by the menu and the subpages' content?
  • 2 should be avoided because the menu should be self-explanatory. And it can sound condescending.
  • with 3, how would the user know he's actually on the good page? And how would he notice that he actually navigated to a different page but with the same content?
  • 4: an empty page looks more like an error than an invitation to click on the menu. It's actually an invitation to close the tab.

Considering that the subpage is a child of the parent page, it means that they're related. In that regard, any content of a subpage is relevant enough to be displayed when clicking on the parent's page link. So just redirect to one these subpages (preferably the first one).

  • This method is used on some applications (old Windows help programs, for example) where it makes sense, but I personally would never use it on websites, because I think it would confuse users like it did me when I came across that on one site. I've only seen it once, that I know of. Do you have some working examples? Mar 21 '14 at 6:00

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