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In the documentation page for my team's product, there are some articles under the same header that are fairly friendly but some that are definitely not for beginners. My employer wants something that doesn't need to be clicked to show the difference between a normal or advanced article.

I was considering a hover pop-up, but then that means the user can't take in the links and immediately tell what's advanced or not. Another option is to place the words "Advanced" (kind of like an icon) right in front of the icons.

Another issue to contend with is that everyone who visits this documentation page is a software developer of some sort, so is it even necessary to differentiate between the different types of articles?

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You could take a search engine approach, when you search for something in a search engine it displays links on the next page with little snippets of information directly below the link describing what the link is more in depth. These snippets could have an icon that represents advanced or normal. This helps to determine if it is exactly what you are looking for or not. This would remove the need for the pop-up and simplify the page overall.

As you also stated all of the people visiting the website will already be software developers so you may not even need the icon to differentiate between advanced and normal, but rather just the snippet of information below to help them browse the information more quickly and find what they need.

  • I'm unable to touch the search engine part of the page :( – Ochre May 22 '14 at 14:45
  • I wasn't saying to touch the search engine part of the page, but merely apply the same concept to help the visitor when looking for the information. If you can add a icon you can add text as well, correct? – Nick_M May 22 '14 at 14:47
  • D'oh, I misinterpreted what you were saying. This is actually the solution that I keep ending up at, so it might really be the only viable one. – Ochre May 22 '14 at 14:53
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I think its hard to tell if the differentiation is neccessary from your information. But if it needs to be "marked" I would expect some sort of "Advanced" keyword or an icon that visualizes the advanced category. The text itself is easier to understand than an icon though... If you pick the keyword approach, I would just mark the advanced content and not writing "normal" in front of all others.

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If there are very high differences in level of skill (understanding) for various content, I would propose using labels as "Beginner", "Intermediate", "Advanced". You may also use only "Advanced" as suggested earlier, if there are only two levels of difficulty. The fewer the better generally.

I would refrain from using icons (without text label) as in my experience there are no metaphors clear enough for this.

To make the content more accessible, I would suggest breaking it into sections based on the difficulty level with beginner level first. In similar way, documentation is often beginning with "Getting started" guide and than come more advanced topics.

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