Q: What are the issues with disabling a browser’s navigation bar?

Disabling a browser’s navigation bar can have serious consequences for your users. However, it may be the right answer in some cases.

Opening a new window with disabled browser navigation takes control away from the user – usually a violation of a basic heuristic of designing usable systems.

Multiple research studies have found that the “Back” button is one of the most frequently used navigational elements, and users may become disoriented if it is taken away. If a new window appears full-screen with browser navigation disabled, users might not realize it or understand why their method of navigating has changed partway through their task.

However, sometimes it makes sense to open a new browser window with navigation disabled.

One of the most common and frequent uses is Help. Help often can come up in another window with no browser navigation, as long as it does not come up full-screen. This allows users to focus on the task at hand, and the page at hand, without Help taking them completely away.

Other instances where disabling the browser’s navigation might be the best solution include some enterprise web applications and other kinds of complex applications that need to lock users in to certain paths to keep them from losing data. If you decide to disable browser navigation in one of these instances, then test the entire task flow with users to make sure there are no major navigation issues.

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