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Is it better to prevent a forbidden action or display an error/explanation message?

Hi forum. Not sure if this is the right place to ask a question like this, but here we go:

In my webapp I have a table of candidates applying for a position. Each row represents a candidate and I can perform actions on them like edit, delete and view details. Some candidates are shared to me by other and on those candidates my actions are restricted (cannot delete a candidate created by another user for example). What would the best practice be:

  1. Make the links which correspond to actions not allowed (inactive). If clicked then have a message appear explaining why the action is not allowed.
  2. Hide the link.

1 Answer 1


Hide the links. Don't confuse end-users.

  • +1 to Denis. Don't show anything that user is not allowed to use. User has to see things they only need to see.
    – detay
    May 25, 2011 at 10:35
  • This is what my boss said too but I disagree - take a look at the table im talking about: cola-cola.com/uploads/candidates.jpg For me it would be more confusing not to have the report link. If the link were hidden the user would ask "why can I not create report for this candidate". May 25, 2011 at 10:44
  • And so, by your logic, customers should see disabled links such as "Issue Refund" on their Amazon orders? :-)
    – Anonymous
    May 25, 2011 at 10:49
  • +1: A possible exception would be if some action on the page should enable the action (such as clicking a terms/conditions checkbox).
    – Anonymous
    May 25, 2011 at 11:21

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