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7:9 Use Appropriate Menu Types

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7:9 Use Appropriate Menu Types

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 2 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 4 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline




Use 'sequential' menus for simple forward-moving tasks, and use 'simultaneous' menus for tasks that would otherwise require numerous uses of the Back button.


Most Web sites use familiar ’sequential’ menus that require items to be selected from a series of menus in some predetermined order. After each selection is made, another menu opens. The final choice is constrained by the sum total of all previous choices.

Simultaneous menus display choices from multiple levels in the menu hierarchy, providing users with the ability to make choices from the menu in any order. Simultaneous menus are often presented in frames, and are best employed in situations where users would have to


  • Card, S.K., Moran, T.P., & Newell, A. (1980a). Computer text editing: An information processing analysis of a routine cognitive skill. Cognitive Psychology, 12, 32-74.
  • Hochheiser, H. & Shneiderman, B. (2000). Performance benefits of simultaneous over sequential menus as task complexity increases. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 12(2), 173-192.

Good Example:

This is an example of a 'sequential' menu. In this case, mousing-over 'Pay & Benefits' invokes the circled sub-menu.


This is a good example of when to use 'simultaneous' menus. The user can repetitively manipulate the many variables shown in the left right panel and view the results on the map in the right left panel without having to use the Back button.