My company likes to design interfaces with side menus that look like this:
The problem with this design is that it allows the user to click on links like "Profile" before they've selected which profile they want to view. This leads to confusion - new users naturally try and click directly on the "dependent" links (e.g. "Profile") when searching for detailed information in the app.
To solve this, we typically do one of two things:
As a side-effect, this design introduces a concept we call "context" - clicking the "Customers → Profile" link brings up the customer currently "in context" (i.e. most recently selected from the search screen). While this behavior can be handy at times, it can also lead to some confusion and some tricky edge cases.
How can I redesign this application flow to avoid the issues described above? I'm open to all ideas, even if they don't directly involve the menu structure.