To hide or to disable?

8 Apr 2012 - 3:52pm
4 years ago
6 replies
976 reads

There is ongoing discussion in my team about what is better behaviour for UI, when certain areas of the application are guarded by permission system. There are two main options:

  1. Hide it, so the user won't be distracted by elements they cannot use.
  2. Disable it, so they can see there is a function in the app they could use with the right permissions.


I won't say which side I took because i don't want to bias this thread.

I'll be grateful for your opinions?


11 Apr 2012 - 7:29pm

It all depends on the context. I would contend that hiding it would be best. If the area is superfluous for most, maintaining focus on content would be better

12 Apr 2012 - 1:51pm

It's hard to give an opinion because there is missing some key information. I'd like to know if the person using it could obtain the necessary permissions. What would it signal to the person if the function is disabled? Is the person with insufficient permission a new user, learning the application? Is there a financial benefit to your company if somebody would purchase the right permissions?

An answer to those question might help with the answer you seek :-)

13 Apr 2012 - 11:04am

I have heard arguments for both and as Steven says context is King.

If I have no clue why something is disabled then hiding it is better. In your case you mention Security Permissions. I doubt if the average customer using the app are going to understand what permissions they have and how they go about getting them. I would hide it.

If however, there is immediate feedback as to why something is disabled, i.e. I perform an action and see the feature become enabled or disabled then greying out is better.

13 Apr 2012 - 5:45pm
Mike Myles

There are always exceptions, but I found a good rule of thumb is...

  • Disable if it's a function that a user can take an action to enable, say by selecting something in the UI.
  • Hide it if a user can't take action to enable it.
In the case of a user role permissions the user can't take action to enable that feature, an admin would need to do that. So I'd lean toward hiding it. But that's just a guideline, and you may find good reasons to do the opposite in your specific case.

18 Apr 2012 - 3:35pm

Thank you all for your input. It helped me with the disscusion.

23 Apr 2012 - 12:43am

I would reserve Hiding for progressive reveals only, in other words hiding is ok when the data is organized such that the user's goals and needs may conditionally  exclude the functionality or the user has simply not yet gotten to that point. In either case it should only be done within a single interface. In your case they are unavailable due to security settings.  In almost all cases I would disable with some sort of tooltip explaining their security condition (for access to this feature, please contact your admin). . The reason being if the user is restricted from visibility of an item they should have access too or might decide could be useful (e.g., error in the rights, add new user) they should be able to inform the administrator and request access. In short never hide- I even hate disabling when no clarification is given. Caveat, all of that being said, if it features that the user SHOULD never user, that is a different story and should not be included in the user version and only the admin version. 

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