This is more a web design / user experience question, but since programmers.stackexchange.com is more opinion based, I posted this here -

Does it make sense to have a single tab in a web app? I don't see any reason to have a tab if you can't tab to it from some other tab. My PM is demanding a single tab. I honestly think my PM is making horrible decisions regarding the design (we have no official designer) and eventually we will lose customers. The design of the application was made early 2000's and it shows (HTML tables, lots of inline css, etc). I am afraid that if we don't update it to match this decade's expectations of application, it will just turn off our potential customers. The application is an enterprise app that we sell to potential customers.

We are a small company - our team for this application is 6 (3 developers, 2 qa (one being the pm), and one of the company's partners). Everyone's opinion matters (so I have been told), but if someone happens to disagree with the PM (who can do no wrong), she gets all huffy....and I am rambling.

So my question remains - what are your thoughts on a single tab?

  • 4
    No it doesn't except when it does. May 10 '11 at 18:44
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    What reasoning does your project manager give for using a tabbed interface when only one tab is necessary? Ask them to justify their decision.
    – Bernard
    May 10 '11 at 20:32
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    While I don't disagree that this sounds like a bad idea, I find it extremely hard to believe that you will "lose customers" because your design incorporates a lone tab with no siblings. There really sounds like one of those occasions when you should just offer your opinion (which you have), and if your boss disagrees, just shrug, and move on with building that tab. May 10 '11 at 22:19
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    All modern web browsers will show you a single tab when you've only got 1 website opened :-)
    – Htbaa
    May 11 '11 at 8:07
  • yes htbaa, that is correct, but those web browsers allow the user to create more tabs. If the interface does not allow users to add tabs and is somewhat static, then I think the single tab is bad form. May 11 '11 at 14:23

I wouldn't create a single tab unless I knew there would be a second tab soon and I wanted to save myself the trouble of rewriting part of the interface later. Maybe your PM is just thinking ahead?

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    At this point there is no plans on having a second tab. My PM does say "someday there will be another", but until that day comes, I don't see a reason to have it. Changing it to a tab interface would not be that big of a deal for our pages. I try to keep with the YAGNI (You ain't gonna need it) principle. May 10 '11 at 18:49
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    @Dan: I'd probably side with you on this. If it's one of those hand-wavy "I guarantee we'll need something someday" features, then YAGNI applies. If someone has specific ideas on what other tabs will be used for, then it's a different story. May 10 '11 at 18:56
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    Just in time, not just in case, aka YAGNI. May 10 '11 at 19:35

There is more to YAGNI than wasting time and effort on a page element that you will likely depreciate in the future; users will expect that there should be additional tabs, that there will eventually be additional tabs, or even that they are able to create additional tabs.

This is bad. Their eyes and attention will spend an unnecessary amount of time focused somewhere other than where you want them to be.

If you are not aware, there is a StackExchange site for User Experience that is currently in beta. It has already gathered a wealth of information. (You seem to have indicated in your opening sentence that you know of it, but just in case. These guys are good at using data and research to demonstrate why certain practices can be detrimental to UX.)



The only reason I can see it is if a tab fits the metaphor for the page. If the content of the page is some kind of document (more the physical paper document metaphor) then it might make sense visually and in 'feel'. The Tab metaphor is still pretty strongly related to file-folders for many audiences.

Otherwise, it's a redundancy.

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