I have a web page that has multiple providers configured (Lets assume Google, FaceBook and Yahoo!). When you select each of these providers, a pallet opens up which has 2 or more tabs (could be common across the providers or might not be) Here is a design consideration that I am currently looking for an answer to: Assuming I open the Facebook provider pallet for the first time and it has 3 tabs A, B and C. By default it shows tab A selected and I switch to tab B Now I open Google provider pallet which has say X and Y tabs; tab X is defaulted for the first time and I leave it as is Within the same session, I again open the Facebook pallet - should it show tab A by default (which is the first tab) or should it show tab B (which was selected during the previous navigation to this pallet) Defaulting to the first tab gives consistency whereas loading the last selected tab helps launch the tab that the user was working with last time he accessed the pallet Note: The tabs that I am talking about aren't part of any sequential navigation. Each tab is independent (say a Search tab that allows for keyword search, and a Browse tab that lists the items grouping them category wise).

Thanks, Raj

  • 1
    I'm assuming you mean "pallette" when he say "pallet". A pallet is a hardwood box used to stack boxes on while still being easy to lift lift with a forklift.
    – user69458
    Feb 22 '16 at 17:30

I believe a good UI should be adaptive to user behaviour. I'm more likely to go with persistent tab behaviour for the following scenarios:

  1. You want to save the user last session (tabs opened) before they logged out
  2. The tabs contain form elements
  3. User wants to compare content from different providers, it will be frustrating for the user if the tabs keep switching back to default.
  4. The tabs content are not sequential (which you said its not).

You could still default to the first tab but only after the user leaves your site or navigate to another page.

This persistent behaviour can also be found in page scroll content, mail inbox etc. Go to any web page with very long content. Scroll to the middle of the page and hit refresh. Notice the page will refresh at the spot where you left it. This behaviour is similar to the persistent tab selection and it is what user has come to expect.


If the set of tabs and their contents are similar for all three providers then stay on the current tab. You loose nothing by it while it may be annoying if you go back to the first when the user, for example, wanted to change the same attribute for all the three providers (need to go back).

If the tabs are completely different, then it makes no sense to stay on the current tab. It may even look awkward.

Bottom line, the more the set of tabs and their content is similar, the more you would like to stay on the current tab.

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