This answer by JohnGB on "Greyed-Out vs Invisible" by Joel B kind of touches on the idea, but this question focuses specifically on a moderation tool for power users.

Should buttons that don't apply (e.g. voting to delete a post that's already deleted) be greyed out or completely removed? The screenshot shows the latter option.


On this page, everybody has basically the same level of access so I don't think the "don't show greyed out mod tools to non-mods" principal applies. All the options possible should be clear since they probably all show up on at leas one item on the page (which would have many items).

I think removing them would be better since it would be cleaner and I don't think options that aren't relevant would help with applying the tools right. But leaving all the options in all the time would be more consistent. Should buttons always be there but sometimes greyed out, or should they be removed?


3 Answers 3


There isn't much point cluttering the interface (visual noise) with actions that cannot be performed. It violates quite a few UX heuristic.

Obviously when an action can be unlocked via user action, orientation comes to mind (although it may still be worth hiding the locked actions so their introduction to the interface will draw attention).

Aspects such as learnability and consistency also come to mind here. Oddly, this site shows arrows allowing you to upvote your own post only to tell you you can't do it.

But in your specific case, I doubt any of these are in play - moderators are normally experienced users.


I agree that in general hiding the link is preferred. But in this case I'd make an argument for keeping the links but greying them out.

You have a bunch of possible links on any post and a bunch of different states with different options available. If you hide the links, as you have in your screenshots, the layout of each set of links is very different for each state. This makes it difficult to scan to find what you're looking for and makes it feel like each set could be different at each time, which makes you need to explicitly read each set each time, aka more cognitive overhead.

If you keep each link but grey them out as necessary then a quick glance shows you what's available and what's not. I believe this will also help with quickly identifying which state a post is in — humans are great at pattern recognition and your users will quickly learn the distinct disabled/enabled link patterns for each post state.

I've done a quick mockup of what I'm talking about here:

enter image description here

Whichever route you choose, I recommend keeping the 'Vote to delete' and 'Vote to undelete' links in the same position in your list of action. This will help link the two actions in the users minds and assist with scanning the links.


You're right to consider removing the unactionable links (as lzhaki has said) this will only confuse users. I also agree that it's a little more complicated when an action can activate the links.

In that instance my suggestion would be to keep the links visible but greyed out, this at least suggests that there may be an available action that can activate them. You might even include a tooltip on hover that explains what is required to activate the link (although it's likely a power user would already know!).

Additionally, think about the hierarchy of the links - perhaps as a moderator or power user the additional options are more important than the normal user options and should be placed in a sequence that optimises their usage e.g. maybe skip and edit are placed next to one another if they are the primary actions for a moderator. Obviously you'll have to determine which makes sense if your case :)

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