After downloading and installing any app from the app store, the first thing a user will do is assess the value of the application. Yet in order to properly gauge the value of a new app and notice its different facets, it is essential that there be ease of navigation. Confuse a user with a complex app navigation pattern and you won’t even give your users a chance to properly experience your app. Not only is a strong app navigation pattern essential for a positive first impression, it also presents the opportunity to infuse unique microinteractions to contribute to your app’s individuality. Hence, a well-designed navigation menu is fundamental for successful onboarding, as well as enhancing the overall user experience.


What Users Want

Users want to spend less time trying to decipher an app navigation menu and more time actually doing things that they want to around the app. It is important to follow the standard UI patterns yet at the same time don’t let them hold you back from being a bit quirky and innovative with your design.

You need to know what designs are trending amongst your competitor apps (if you have them) and what can potentially get a thumbs up or thumbs down from ever demanding clients. Below we have listed four such design prototypes that when done right, make for a slick, easy-to-use navigation while at the same time providing a solid base for creativity.


1. Toggle it up

The toggle menu is perhaps the best option to display the app navigation menu without sacrificing precious screen space. Users can typically either tap the menu button from one corner of the header or simply slide to get access to it.

The app pictured below is the well-known Evernote Android App, whose navigation menus are accessed by swiping left to right and tapping on the little green button at the bottom right- revealing green icon buttons that let users create a variety of custom notes.

Without eating up space from the screen, these nifty toggle menus effectively take the users where they need to go, to do what they need/want to do. Evernote also made the smart decision to make one menu more focused on sections of their app while the other menu (the toggle icons with text) is more dedicated just for the note-taking functions. These kind of navigation menus are great for productivity apps where users need to easily manage a medium/large variety of functions and tools.




2. Pictorial icons

A picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case, a couple of words that would otherwise be used to describe an item on the menu bar. Users can identify significantly better with images rather than written words, especially due to the fact that 93% of all human communication is visual and images are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Moreover, the need for speed has steadily increased, thus making pictorial icons a popular choice for navigation.

CircleMe app helps users keep up to date on all their passions, using familiar icons such as a music note, drink, shopping bag etc. to signify common, favorite topics. Instead of using text, meaningful icons have been used. For app’s like CircleMe the choice of pictorial icons is a smart one because they take users to interest-oriented categories instead of representing detailed functions. The icons are also arranged in a circle, thus reinforcing the name and value of the app.

Icons resonate quickly and can also add a sense of personality to your app. This is the reason why many ecommerce and entertainment apps are opting for icon representation of their navigation menu. However, this is an “art” to creating proper, understandable icons. You can read more about it here.




3. Whole screen navigation

In this case, the entire screen is your oyster. When an app has a whole screen navigation pattern as its beginning state, it easily captures users’ attention and encourages them to take action and start exploring what lies within. A full page navigation pattern also caters to large, crisp images, that can be especially beneficial for retail, food, sport, and travel apps. Typically this navigation pattern has images paired with bold words/call to actions and also allows users to scroll beyond the space on the opening screen. In the case of Asos and its smooth whole screen pattern, it utilizes vibrant, appealing images to advertise specific trends, deals and also emphasize certain categories at different times in light of seasons and rising fashions. This navigation pattern is certainly all about piquing one’s interest.




4. Select/Drop Down menu

The good ol’ select/drop down menu is easy to implement, and is also one of the most popular choices for navigation design. However, there are cases when these menus can be utterly boring or overloaded. Make sure you don’t fall into that trap.

It is definitely a turn off to users if a drop down menu makes a user scroll through a multitude of options. Hence, this kind of navigation is better for apps that do need to present too many options/features. Users get a hassle free experience from these menus as they can select exactly what they want without having to visit another page. These menus are also better for listing functions which are difficult to explain and/or remember via icons. Typically, these navigation menus are used for selecting modes within a game app, like Call of Duty Elite, as the menu also allows users to pause the game play by dropping down the menu and covering the whole screen.






To conclude, good app navigation makes for a better user experience in mobile applications. Using innovative animation, special colors and intricate design might make the UI look very unique, but it will all go to waste if the UX is compromised because of a faulty, or ill-fitting navigation pattern. If you have already chosen a navigation pattern for your app but you are not sure if it is the right choice, try using app UX analytics like Appsee to clearly understand users’ interactions with this facet of your app.


Thoughts? We would love to hear which navigation design pattern you prefer.


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