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Currently my team and I are working on an interface where the user interacts with navigation buttons on the side of the screen.

After conducting several usability tests, we are running into the problem of getting the users to correctly associate the top right navigation button with toggling the sub menu below.

In this image, they would press the top right button (placement is non-negotiable due to people who are paid more) to access the bar at the bottom of the screen. enter image description here

Once they access the sub menu, it becomes highlighted and they are able to navigate using the arrow buttons.

enter image description here

Arrow button right would make the interface look like this:

enter image description here

We've tried several icons, including an ellipses, "SUB MENU," a generic home icon, and the icon shown below. Despite the variation, all of these buttons lead to confusion with our users.

I understand that learning effects will likely render whatever icon we use as a non-issue, but we want to effectively communicate how to access this menu the first time.

Are there any standards for this type of situation? What would be the best way to convey this to our users?

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I don't know of any standards for this - I don't think I've ever seen a remote control like the one illustrated. It's somewhat reminiscent of a TV remote, using arrow cursors to move around, but has much fewer buttons than today's TV remote.

I would use text along with row-of-buttons symbol. "Command bar" seems better to me than "Sub menu", maybe you'd have to abbreviate it to "CMD BAR" to fit with the font size you're using.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • Thank you! We really like the term "Bar," however our users are used to using "Command" for another context on this interface, so we're going to have to adjust the wording a little bit, but this is a good idea! – Nickar Aug 11 '15 at 22:30
  • @NRSELINC "ACTION BAR"? – obelia Aug 11 '15 at 22:58
  • What about Tool Bar? – DasBeasto Aug 12 '15 at 16:39
  • "Action Bar" might work. It's not really a space for tools, more like an area for toggling options or views, so semantically, I don't think "Tool Bar" would work. – Nickar Aug 12 '15 at 17:18

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