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I'm designing a web site with a column of navigation buttons on the left. On the right is the content. Clicking a button loads the particular content and a title header on the top. Say the column of buttons is, for example, About, Services, Contact, etc...

If someone clicks, for example, the Services button, I load the services content in the content area, and change the header text to "Services."

The question I have is should the column of buttons now omit the Services button, or should the Services button remain in the column but be disabled (graphically and functionally)?

The first way, the menu is simpler and you wouldn't have a button that loads the content that is already loaded.

The second way gives the user more indication "where" he is, even though the header does that too.

Is there a consensus?

  • Why would you graphically disable it? It's a fairly common pattern to emphasize graphically that part of the menu to show what page you're currently on. Also, clicking on it can refresh the page. – Graham Herrli Sep 18 '14 at 3:57
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Keep the link there, remove the link functionality and apply some graphical emphasis to show that it represents the page/section the user is currently viewing in the right hand side content container. This is a very common approach and in my experience this has always tested well with users.

You wouldn't remove a main menu navigation item once the user travels to that page, and the same thinking applies here. Arguably it would be more confusing for a user to try to understand why a menu item has disappeared after clicking on it.

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I wouldn't go with any of these approaches.

  1. Don't remove the menu item: Inserting & Removing elements constantly is a bad UX. It can lead to user confusion. It is similar to the scenario where the link to Home page always remains even when user is on Home page.
  2. Don't graphically disable it: The better approach to it is highlight the current tab. Imagine, if the user might wants to refresh the page. Most users tend to click the link instead of hitting F5. If it is disabled then, you are forcing the user to refresh the page by Browser refresh.

Conclusion - Keep it simple. Just highlight the current tab/page if you want to. Nothing more

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I would definitely NOT remove the link from the menu. It sends a very confusing message to the user, and has no indication whatsoever as to your current whereabouts in the navigation tree.

That being said, I would disable the link functionality, as it would load the same page again, and unless it's a real-time or dynamic page you wouldn't want that (and even then there are far better ways of implementing that).

Lastly, go with a highly contrasted visual indication for that menu item, indicating "this is where you are now" by highlighting it, switching it's background colour and/or text colour.

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