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I have a parent section titled "Campaigns" with two children sections titled "Rules" and "Results". When the parent section is clicked in the drop down on the right (please forgive the rough prototype) I send the user directly to the first child section because there isn't any content in the parent section landing page.

I have the label and the section indication on the left navigation so I feel they should understand where they have landed. The word "Campaigns" on the left nav would not be clickable. In other sections that parent link would active be if there was content on that page, so there'd be some inconsistency there. But I would indicate whether or not that it's a link with styling.

I don't want to create filler content or put two buttons on that page to have them end up in the same spot.

I'd also rather avoid the dropdown menu within a dropdown menu if I can because of its own usability issues. I could potentially make "campaigns" look more like a header in the dropdown and indicate that "Rules" and "Results" are child categories right below it, but this might look a little weird. Especially with the categories listed out below it (I want to keep the sections listed alphabetically).

Will linking straight to the child section from a parent link create a bad experience and confusion? If so, are there any suggestions to get around this issue? If it's an okay approach, does anyone know of any articles out there on this? I couldn't find any one way or the other but I'd like to have some support when defending this decision.

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    Is there a reason why you can't evolve your navigation so that it keeps the labels and content consistent? – Peter Aug 19 '15 at 18:05
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    can't you just allow one to click on the "campaigns" header? Doing so should than simply result in returning to the landing page of campaigns, in this example that would be "rules". To build up your menu structure, you could always do an open card sort exercise :-) Perhaps there is a better structure somewhere out there :-) – Xabre Aug 20 '15 at 12:22
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Simply add some content for every top-level section. It can be simple as an "About this section" description of what the user will find in that section. Now, all parent sections have a child heading for all the content within that section, whether or not the content is at the parent section level or in a child section. This meets your goal of having all the children selectable and none of the parents, whether or not the parent has actual content associated with it.

Also, if possible, place all the content for a section and all its sub-sections on the same page. If that's too much content, use accordion headers to allow the user to expand and collapse sections. You can also use a scrollspy to highlight the appropriate section in the left nav if the user simply scrolls up and down to consume the content. Here's a wireframe of this idea:

Section/sub-section nav example

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I don't think your interface is being intentional enough. To fix this with what you currently have, you should create a page for Campaigns and present clear pathways to the content (or tasks) in the Rules/Results pages below. Think of this as a "peek" into the information on those pages or allow your user to easily start their action from the Campaign page. From that Campaign page, your user should be able to isolate based on activity (Rules/Results) if needed.

If you have trouble formulating what this page will look like, I'd suggest revisiting your taxonomy - the parent-child relationship might be the most damaging implication from your interface.

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