Have you ever found yourself in a situation when your friends or colleagues in a breeze use hidden features of familiar apps, and you gratefully note this, but at the back of your mind regret not having used them before? Unfortunately, many features of mobile apps remain a mystery, because users simply have no time to go into details. How can we help a mobile app find a way to the user’s heart by the way of clear and easy navigation, for instance.
It would be foolish to try and imagine a modern world without any mobile communication or mobile apps.
Although a mobile phone appeared quite recently – in 1973, just 44 years ago, today we use it to talk, write, negotiate, take photos, pay bills, read the news, draw, count training time, the energy value of our food and our sleep time, etc. The mobile device often knows more about us than our family and friends.
After a while, we adjust to mobile products we apply most often, reluctant to change our habits. And although now new apps pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain, we have no time (and interest) to look into a new non-standard navigation or strange symbols, which at first glance may seem a complete abracadabra.
Firstly, it takes much time.
Secondly, it is off-the-wall (and we need time to accept anything new).
So, this is the way it goes for a person desperately busy with own concerns. Umbrella suggests looking more closely at the language of the app navigation design. You will get to know it better and then, fully armed, can use it in your app, avoiding any UX mistakes that result in the last positions in Appstore or Google Play.
Results of various UI/UX researches have shown that the user’s basic impression of the app is formed within first 10-15 seconds. This is not much, but enough to engage his/her attention. The main idea is not to lose any of the seconds in vain and use the time to win the user.
And the main role at this point belongs to the visual elements of design. I saw – I liked – I stayed!
Think It Over!
According to Statistic Brain data (as of September 2, 2017), the total number of downloads on Google Play was 91,000,000,000. Add also 62,000,000,000 Apple downloads.
Just imagine the number of apps! And, choosing from the diversity, you are sure to rely on the first impression. In other words, before you understand how easy or useful the app is, you may close and forget it, if the design seems not appealing to you.
But these are the first seconds…
What’s the point of a good-looking app, if we delete it after one or two failed attempts to use, since it is inconvenient and baffling, and we have absolutely no time to adapt to the new rules? The more so, as there are other more user-friendly apps at hand. And a modern user is spoilt for choice
Let’s take, for example, messengers: there are a lot of them, and the users choose ones that are easier to use and find some specific features in each of them.
What exactly does the user find in “his/her” mobile app? What should be provided for in a new app to make it popular?
This is one of the reasons for the unconditional popularity of Facebook: whatever the page/screen in the app we open – everything is recognizable and easy to understand.
The user needs to know his/her location in the app, how to get to the desired screen and how to return to a previous one. A title/tag of the screen is intended to show the user the current location.
No one is fond of situations when we have to try several times to activate a button on a mobile screen that is obviously too small or to swipe on and on in order to switch to the part of the screen we need. We all set a high value for our time and want the app to respond quickly to any command.
the user prefers to think of WHAT is done in the app, but not HOW it is to be done.
The reason is as follows:
And now look at the screen of your mobile device: is it 5 inches? Or more?
Do you think it’s easy: to come up with a mobile app navigation design that would fit into the screen, be equally easy to understand for the users of different age (sex, nationality or profession) and still convenient-to-use so that the users would not spend their precious time searching and guessing?
No, it is not. But possible.
Speaking of major platforms (Android and iOS), we understand that each of them has its own mobile app navigation patterns, familiar to their loyal users.
For developers of Android apps, Material Design is their Bible, specifying the way to create visual, interactive or moving elements. And Android users are accustomed to the style and features of their apps.
Similarly, iOS developers have their own Guidelines.
Such standards are developed for each platform so that users could feel “at home” in any new app. We get used to it, adapt and, by force of habit, we regularly enter the apps just like our own study or workshop intended for our hobby.
But just like in a workshop, each shelf is intended for definite things, and we know exactly which box to open, we want to understand where and what to look for in any mobile app.
A key tool of UI / UX designers to tell the users about the app is a menu. A set of symbols, pictures, texts that helps choose the right screen, switch to it and perform the actions required.
Such menus raise fewest questions among the users; they utilize all the screen space available and, accordingly, display a maximum possible content. All you need is to select the menu item that interests you and then look into it in more detail.
Information in such mobile menu design is given in the form of a list (with a text description of positions):
Or in the form of a grid (using images):
Good news: full-screen menus are the simplest and most consistent mobile app menu examples, thus they fit well into apps operating a large amount of information. Firstly, the user selects the item of interest and then can look through the full content related to the item, without being distracted by any other information.
The most popular and most discussed type of menu. On the one hand, the icon is familiar to all the users and does not take up much space. It would seem to be the best mobile menu design: frees the space and hides the information in the place where everyone will look for it.
But… on the other hand, without knowing which information is hidden there, the user won’t look for it and will remain in the dark. Therefore, this type of menu is said to be gradually dying away. Let’s wait and see what new experimental app menu design inspiration will bring us. But for now, we unwittingly continue searching the apps for the hamburger icon (in various variants).
The hamburger menu often conceals secondary features. And the features that we use most often and always need at hand, are offered in a more obvious format.
Good news: Today, the hamburger menu not just opens a list of links to the app sections, but becomes a pleasant surprise for the user, since it includes a wide variety of content (contacts, social network icons, animation, sound effects, animated background, etc.).
We would call this type the most user-friendly of mobile navigation examples. As we are accustomed to using such bars in desktop versions of websites and apps, and we know exactly the way they work. For this reason, these bars offer the most frequently used functions.
Good news: switching between tabs on the bar can be performed not only by clicking on them but also by gestures (say, by scrolling). When we talk about mobile phones, it is obvious that switching between the buttons arranged in a row on the screen is not always convenient (although the designers strive to make the distance between the buttons as sufficient as possible). Therefore, the user is offered a choice.
This is the type of menu you need first to try before you understand what the button is intended for. This button on the screen helps you quickly move to the action, which is most important in this app section.
The menu opens either by pressing or pressing and holding the button.
As a rule, the button stands out against the background of other interface elements due to its color and convenient location, so it’s hard to miss it.
Some icons, which at first glance are hard to interpret in more than one way, can have a different meaning in different apps. For example, a pencil icon may mean creating a new message, or it’s editing.
Good news: There aren’t many buttons on the screen, so the user is not distracted and wastes no time choosing between several bright elements. Usually, there are one or two buttons used for basic functions of the app (for example, in the mail it is the function “to write a letter”).
We have long got used to the screens of our mobile devices responding to our touch. And designers actively use different gestures (tap, double tap, scroll, swipe, pinch, etc.) we apply intuitively as if we had a mouse in our hand.
The sixth feeling is really deceptive and not many have it in their power. Therefore, do not count on the user’s excellent intuition that will help get outside of all questions. Test any complex navigation with some of your friends – a couple of behavior patterns will undoubtedly be a surprise for you.
Good news: for the users not to get lost among hidden elements the various hints are offered when the app is used for the first time. Onboarding process is activated to familiarize new users with benefits of the product. Do not skip this step – the hints are created specifically for the users who have the habit to utilize all the features for 100%.
Mobile apps are created to provide the users with new opportunities. Mobile navigation is a guide in any app, and therefore, it is a guide in the world of new opportunities.
No doubt, no one forbids you to use only the most essential functions of the app. But having bought a new car, you are sure to check it in all possible modes and situations, aren’t you? The same is true for a mobile app: new opportunities are delivered in a user-friendly and familiar way.
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