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I have a dashboard, with tab menu (tabs over the content) and a side panel with a vertical menu.

My question is: I would like to make one menu (tab or side panel) as first level menu and the other menu for options inside a specific context.

for example:

On my tabs i have three menus (users, analytics and categories). After that i click over one of those, i.e users, then my left menu will show options related with users (manage, audit, etc). I could do as well the opposite, at the left menu, users, analytics and categories, and as soon as i click on users, i get three tabs over my content (manage, audit and etc).

So, how to decide, which model is better? What i was thinking as decision point is, which menu can have more elements, since too many tabs don't looks nice.

any other tip or idea?

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enter image description here

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As a user, my instinct would be to regard the tabs as the top-level menu. Being the highest element, it's the first thing I read, and so it's intuitive that it'd be the first 'point of decision'.

You can resolve further confusion by employing three techniques:

  1. Don't let the side menu share any of the tab menu's vertical space.
  2. Don't be tempted to put any tab items in the side menu. That would feel natural for a 'home' tab or page, but it'll actually confuse your users in the long run
  3. Make sure the side menu looks as though it's within each tab. For instance, prefer the formenter image description here

...over

The submenu doesn't obviously belong 'inside' each tab

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