I am in the process of designing a website which will be produced in at least 2 phases. The first release will include the majority of the site sections but in phase 2 we will be producing additional functionality.

This means that some sections of the website will only include a single subsection initially but will expand to several subsections at a later date.

My question is: Should I still include a sub-menu for the sections that only have 1 sub-section for now to keep the site consistent and so that the site doesn't appear to restructure itself when we release phase 2, or should the sub-menu be excluded for now and only introduced when there is sufficient content?

I think I'm leaning more toward excluding the menu for now but would value other opinions.

2 Answers 2


I'd go with excluding the menu for now as well.

A big reason for this is that you (or the customer) might decide that a different design is also needed which removes the need to for sub-menus or reorganises them in some other way.

Also having a sub menu might lead users to think that they are missing something that they should have access to now (rather than being the promise of new functionality).

However another factor to bear in mind is the time between the release of the phases. A short time doesn't give users time to get entrenched in their ways making a transition to a new menu structure easier for users. This would lead to not having the placeholder sub menus.

If there is a longer time then it could be an argument for having the placeholder so there is less disruption when the new features are finally released.

  • Thanks, I was a bit worried that having a menu that is obviously incomplete would be akin to the old 'Under Construction' messages of 10 years ago, so I agree that we don't want the users thinking they are missing some features.
    – JonW
    Apr 12, 2011 at 11:11

In short and in principle: I would always rank “making sense” much higher than “being consistent”. Consistence is often overrated, anyway – (semantic) coherence and discoverability are much more important.

Hence, apart from the fact that you cannot know what other changes might or will be introduced within the 2nd project phase: an interface element (i.e. your submenu) without the content/functionality to justify its existence is the interface equivalent to a Potemkin village – do not build one unless you need to trick the czar. ;-)

  • The consistency comment made me think of the 'Enter' button on the iPad. Changing the label to be something appropriate (save, login, Go, etc) is a perfect example of how consistency doesn't mean be exactly the same.
    – JeffO
    Apr 12, 2011 at 18:24

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