Revisit actions in the left side navigation

August this year we started to introduce a new pattern in the webui, the left side navigation. From the technical side this is just working fine, but an important piece was still missing, called consistency. We heard your feedback, here is what we did…

Should the action end up in the left side navigation or stay contextual in the area it influences within the main view? No matter which decision is taken, in the end it should be applied consistently throughout the application. This important part got overlooked in certain areas. Even us developers were caught thinking about “where is the X option again”.

The main reason to move the actions to the left menu was to help the users to easily find all the possible actions in one spot. The left menu navigation is a widely known navigation style, and there are many studies supporting it. Scanning just one menu for actions, is easier, especially for new users. But here things start to get tricky. Sometimes you can take the same kind of action (e.g add, edit) on different resources. It makes it hard to distinct the actions, particulary in the collapsed state where only the icon is visible.

Duplicated add action for project repositories
Actions to add a repository from different sources to a project

That’s why we only kept the generic actions, those that affect the the current resource, in the left side navigation menu. Every action taken here, will influence the resource you actively navigated to. The reasoning is to avoid having duplicates of certain actions in the sidebar.

Generic actions in the project view
Generic actions in the project view

The contextual actions, those that affect associated resources, will stay close to the corresponding representation in the main view. This way we build up a visual scope between the action and the resource it’s going to act on. Keeping them tight in one spot will reduce the need of big movements inside the views in order to get the job done.

Contextual actions of project for associated repositories
Contextual actions of project for associated repositories after the adjustments

Some actions don’t match any of these patterns. They are not generic, but there is also no representation of the associated resource in the view available. Those will stay in the sidebar.

Moving around the tools that many of you use on a daily base imply confusion. Thats is why we acted now, in order to introduce a pattern that enables us to stay consistent after this get’s rolled out of the beta program in the foreseeable future.

How To Give Us Feedback

There are two ways to reach us:

Please note that we favor GitHub to gather feedback as it allows us to easily keep track of the discussions.