Manager Navigation Feedback

@lubos This is something that I would suggest be adding to the ideas category for reviewing later. I just want to give feedback based on website design principles.

Best website design states the following:

  • No more than 7 menu items
  • If you need to use dropdowns, on websites a navigation menu or megamenu as it is called is far better than a drop down menu.

Why is this?

  • Studies indicate that too many menu items actually makes it harder for people to find things. Apparently 7 is the magical number that people retain in their memory. It is far more effective studies say to limit choice to seven items and the user does up to three clicks to get to where they want. This is faster and easier than having to read 25 menu items.

  • Drop down menus actually distract people as the eye moves faster than the mouse, so the user have already decided what to click. I am not sure why megamenu’s are not affected, but apparently they are not according to the research I did. I suspect it’s because it’s effectively preloading the menu of the next page in a much easier to read format than a drop down menu.

In my Manager for my business, I already have 25 tabs not including customise.

There are three problems with this.

  1. This exceeds the 7 rule.
  2. People always have to scroll down to select a tab off the screen
  3. Quite a few of the tabs are unused - for example inventory write-offs it’s been two years since I last used it. So inefficient use of space.

I fully realise that you made the changes to split payables and receivables into two tabs for technical reasons and actually I support it because you can apply even more granular permissions to each tab.

What I suggest

Take bank, receipts, payments, reconciliations, cash accounts and inter-account transfers for example. I accept the necessity to separate these into separate tabs. However this alone takes up 6 tabs.

However, I have come up with a better solution that retains the need to keep “tabs” separate whilst solving the ever growing tab list dilemma.


Money Tab - Bank Accounts, Receipts, Payments, Reconciliations, Cash Accounts and Inter Account
Contacts - Customers, Suppliers, Employees
“Some Name” - Quotes, Sales Orders, Sales Invoices, Purchase Orders and Purchase Invoices
Inventory - Inventory Items, Inventory Transfers, Inventory Write-offs

So you click on Money Tab and see the options I just listed within that tab. Then when you click on say Bank, you see exactly what you see in the current bank tab. So you are not merging tabs - you are just simply moving the shortcut for say bank accounts to within the Money Tab and you click once on Money and once on Bank Accounts adhering to website best practice design.

Previously I had suggested merging some of these into one tab. However, I accept that there are many reasons to keep them separate for technical and business reasons.


By adopting this, you adhere to the website best design practice. My examples have already removed 13 tabs with no loss of functionality to anyone who wants to keep the “tabs” separate, nor requiring a lot of changes to Manager as all you are doing is moving a shortcut effectively!

When you have time, i would be interested in your thoughts. Manager is very simple to use, but I think it’s time to re-consider the tab design as it’s grown too big and actually is hindering usability rather than improving it. This is not just my opinion. Various studies have shown 7 to be the magic number for menu choices.

What I don’t like about this proposal is that artificial groups have to be created and someone has to decide what belongs to each group.

I generally do not make a change in the program unless I’m absolutely sure it must be that way and no other way. Because I need to be ready to defend this.

Most businesses do not use so many tabs and they are fine with flat navigation. If you use many tabs, then you have complex requirements and will need to deal with complex user interface. No amount of layering will make it better, if anything, it would make it worse.

If you have many tabs, is it a problem? I agree, it can be a problem. But if you have a few tabs, then you are creating problem where there wasn’t a problem to start with. Minimal implementation of Manager has only 4 tabs:

  • Summary
  • Journal Entries
  • Reports
  • Settings

The problems with the assertion that the list of tabs is too long as the list length depends on how the user has customised the Manager business.

If we really want to achieve optimal menu structure then Manager would need to support tab customisation, perhaps similar to how COA order is customised

I would prefer the menu structure didn’t scroll with the window data content.
Or more specifically

  • The tabs on the left hand side scrolling is inconvenient. Ideally scroll bar would show only when the tabs list is too long to fit on the browser page

  • the header scrolling is useful as that generally contains things I do not need to access when actively working on a business.

That is why I suggested in another thread which prompted this better post that you could consider the following much less invasive and structural change demanding options:

  1. to make it possible to change the tab order similar to how you can change the order of accounts in setting of Chart of accounts. This will help to have the most used ones at the top requiring less scrolling on small screens.

  2. to make it possible to select and “hide” tabs to be visible under a single “Miscellaneous” (or whatever name) tab that then lists these simply on the tab-screen.

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All I have is the following:

Summary, Bank Accounts, Receipts, Payments, Bank Reconciliations, Customers, Sales Quotes, Sales Invoices, Credit Notes, Delivery Notes, Suppliers, Purchase orders, Purchase Invoices, Debit Notes, Inventory Items, Inventory write-offs, employees, payslips, Fixed Assets, depreciation entries, journal entries, folders, attachments, reports and settings.

More than half of them I never really use like attachments or Debit and Credit notes very rarely.

I don’t think that my business is complex. The main problem is six tabs relate to banking already!

I fully agree people will argue about the exact groups created. But I have found that you in general do get it right most of the time. I like what you have done with the status of quotes - your statuses are ultimately what I actually need.

All I am asking is that you look at website best practice before making a firm decision. I believe that my suggestion is the best way. It will improve usability, make it easy to find things and simplify things.

@Patch the problem with your suggestion is that you are treating the symptom of the problem i.e. how to avoid scrolling. To me, the problem is larger than scrolling. There are too many menu options. I agree with website best practices as I have noticed that I find information far quicker on websites that adhere to this best practice.

Giving users flexibility like re-ordering, renaming or hiding tabs would create entirely new set of problems for accountants and bookkeepers who work across dozens or even hundreds of businesses and they have developed muscle memory to navigate without thinking.

But I guess that can be solved by simply switching off customization just like you can currently collapse the tabs.


@eko. Your first suggestion is not a bad idea and actually has been suggested several times.

However hiding tabs under miscellaneous is not a good idea because this changes Manager layout from business to business where people will say click on employees and you repsond I don’t have an employees tab because you forgot you moved it to miscellaneous.

However, I still maintain that the real problem is too many tabs for all the reasons that I listed above.

Exactly, it sounds good in theory, but in practice not a good idea. It abandons gui consistency which is a no no.

My tabs all fit on one page. I would not use tab customisation. I proposed it only because @dalacor objected to the current list length and grouping.

The user interface would be more efficient for me it the tabs did not scroll at all so remained on the screen all the time. I can’t use the screen real estate below the tabs for anything else because of the window design, scrolling just impairs work efficiency.

However if the tabs did not scroll then a separate scrolling capability for them would need to be added for other uses where the tabs do not fit on the screen

I agree with @eko to support tab ordering, to have most used tabs at the top would be a good start. Maybe allow summery page a form default to organise these and have a button under the tabs like the expand button toggle the list to standard view?

Indeed the way forward and agree that the “muscle memory” is an important factor to consider when changing interfaces or giving flexibility to do so. However, it is also true that very infrequently used tabs such as folders, email, etc have an unnencessary presence but appear as one selects them in customize and there is no way to hide them until used.

Why I suggested the ability to re-order tabs is related to some level of irritation in the logic in which they are presented or why they are there. Some key considerations/issues:

  • Why is Settings a Tab, and Customize a link far below? These are essential components for the functionality of Manager and preferably should be listed in the top bar similar to Businesses, Users and Supports.

  • Reports is a tab almost at the bottom of the page while in essence it is kind of summary page with a whle lot of reporting options. As such it would be better at the top under the summary tab.

  • As Manager versions frequently change and when reporting issues in this forum ideally reference which version we use also this could be displayed in the top bar rather than at the bottom of the screen.

  • Inventory items when activated show up under tabs while non-inventory items only show in settings. This seems inconsistent. Related to this is the presence of Inventory Kits under Settings while there is no “activation” for this in Customize and not sure why this is not a tab while Production Order is a tab.

  • Why not only have a Inventory Items tab with Inventory Transfer and Inventory Write Off buttons next to the New Inventory Item Button?

  • Not sure why Journal Entries are not much hgher up where Receipt and Payments are listed.

  • Bank reconciliations tab could disappear and become a button next to the Import Bank Statements button under selected bank accounts.

  • Consider ordering the tabs in relation to the Balance Sheet and/or P&L. This is partially done (Bank and Cash Assets first) but then becomes confusing.

I stop here as I realize the list is getting longer while I just wanted to show some possible improvements that do not change the core functionality.

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@eko Mainy of the points that you have raised are very similar to my own arguments. I fail to see the logic in a tab for Bank reconciliations. Folders, Employees etc are also very rarely used.

Your suggestion of having inventory transfer and inventory write off buttons is essentially similar to what I am proposing. Having an inventory tab. You click that and then you have inventory, inventory transfer and inventory write off.

So you have actually made my point about the problem with the current tab structure. The difference in disagreement on how to resolve it.

My proposal does not change the core functionality, but also ensure consistency across all tabs.

My example gives you 8 Tabs:

Actually you will see less as not all tabs are used by every business anyway. I don’t use Time and Production for example.

Money - Bank Accounts, Cash Accounts, Receipts, Payments, Inter Account Transfers, Bank Reconciliations, Expense Claims, Payslips, Late Payment Fees and Journal Entries

Contacts - Customers, Suppliers, Employees, Emails

“Some Name??” - Sales Quotes, Sales Orders, Sales Invoices, Purchase Quotes, Purchase Orders and Purchase Invoices

Inventory - Inventory Items, Inventory Transfers, Inventory Write-offs and Non-Inventory Items

Assets - Fixed Assets, Depreciate Entries, Intangible Assets, Amortisation Entries, Capital Accounts

Notes and Reports - Reports, Credit Notes, Delivery Notes, Debit Notes, Goods Receipts

Time and Production - Production Orders, Billable Time and Billable Expenses

Admin - Settings, Special Accounts, Folders, Attachments, History, Backup, Customize and Rename Company

This is probably not perfect as I am not sure that expense claims, payslips and late payment fees and journal entries really go into any of the above but you can see the general direction I am suggesting. I am sure that the developer could perfect my suggestion.

Virtually everything is intuitively allocated I think. So I doubt that there would be as much disagreement as one would think.

Also bear in mind if you don’t use Suppliers for example it won’t appear in the Contacts Tab. And the current tab restrictions and permissions can still be applied to my approach.

I believe that this is better than the current approach, whilst still retaining all current permissions and access rights and separation of current views as you will still see the exact same view clicking on supplier within contacts for example. So hopefully my request will be considered as it does achieve website best practice and simplifies things a lot.

@Patch I was thinking about your scrolling issue whilst I was writing my example Tabs down. Actually on reflection, while I am focused on the length of the Tabs, your point is very valid from a website best practice point of view.

When you are visiting a website you always want the menu options to be at the top or LHS and to be static while you scroll down the page. Manager does not adhere to this best practice as you have to scroll up to select a tab if you have scrolled down in payments or Journal Entries etc.

I believe that creating groups similar to what I have suggested and moving all of this up into a fixed header at the top will be far better as this will negate the need to scroll back up, make more effective use of the wasted space on top and also give more width to forms so you never had to scroll left or right. The tabs minimise is a nice feature but is actually fixing a symptom of a problem.

So my suggestion would two other separate issues as well as my own. Scrolling up to access tabs and left right scrolling within forms eliminating the need for a tabs mimise.

A mock up with

  1. Fixed tab bar with scrolling window content

  2. Removal of grey boarder around most of the window. Remaining white boarder could be reduced also

frames and scroll bars is not really a good way to design websites anymore - which Manager is (even though its in a wrapper for the desktop. Frames that scroll really went out in the 90’s.

I have made my suggestions in the post above yours as we replied at the same time.

This is what I wrote in the other thread which partly prompted the creation of this new thread.

To see why I favour this please read what I wrote and I will explain below.

"I think that the stage where the number of tabs becomes annoying is when the number of required activated tabs makes it necessary to scroll down the screen to access the tabs at the end of the list.

I would like to see grouping of tabs where selecting the group heading would temporarily expand to show a clickable list of the tabs in that group.

I would far rather click to expand a group than have to scroll the page.

Suggested Group headings would go something like this:

Cash and Banking
Accounts Receivable
Accounts payable
Fixed & Intangible assets
etc, etc

It may only need to group the tabs that fit appropriately into a group, with the more difficult to categorise remaining as standalone tabs."

Why I favour this:

  1. It could be implemented in phases
  2. The groups could contain tabs relative to each accounting module which will reinforce accounting principles for users with limited accounting background. (accounts payable separate from accounts receivable is a good example).
  3. It will delineate similar tabs and avoid inadvertently selecting the wrong tab.For example, Purchase invoice instead of sales invoice and vice versa which I seem to do on regular occasions.
  4. When you have many tabs and need to scroll it stuffs up your muscle memory as each time you scroll for a particular tab it invariable ends up in a different position than the last time. This suggestion will eliminate this.
  5. It does not require another main page frame to navigate to get to your destination. (as some other suggestions require).
  6. An expanded group could be quickly collapsed by another click if you select the wrong group.
  7. The existing customise screen would not need to change and if no tabs are selected in a group that group need not appear in the menu. Likewise, tabs need not appear in a group if not selected.

Tabs which could be left permanently expanded for simple businesses on large screens then collapsed for complex business on relatively small screens could work.

Simple business do loose vertical screen space with the approach as they would then have to also display tab group headers. Perhaps that could be minimised by just displaying a dividing line when expanded and header name when collapsed.

The problem is deciding the tabs groupings…

For example under my Money tab I have put payments and receipts, whereas you have two separate tabs that won’t contain anything other than payables and receivables.

Personally I can’t see any reason why to have these as tabs. They both relate to bank and cash accounts - which is why I proposed the Money Tab and put them in there. Secondly Account receivables and Account Payables is accounting terminology not as user friendly as just payments and receipts.

I agree it could be implemented in phases as some tabs and groups will be very easy, but others are a bit harder to place. I personally think mine is simple and non accountant friendly.

Anyway the developer can review this. I think that my suggestions will carry a lot of weight in this topic because it’s not just my opinion. Studies do show 7 to be the magic number and 3 clicks to get to your destination. In addition most websites have the menu items in a static header that does not disappear when you scroll down the page unlike Manager’s Tabs.

So all I am really advocating here is website design best practices as recommended by various different studies. I am not asking for major changes such as merging tabs - just moving the link where you click on most of the tabs to a different location and level. That should not affect user permissions, access rights, gui view etc.