Design is not only a vision but also the functionality. It aims not only to impress users but also to engage them with the mobile application. Navigation can be seen as a conversation between them and the application. The perfect content and functionalities can be fully used and appreciated only when users can easily find out how to find them. Here we will look at the principles for building good navigation for mobile applications.

Basic Requirements

The structure of the navigation within the user interface is an indicator of how easily a mobile application can be used. When the main factors are present, success is practically certain. While creativity is always leading, there are fundamental rules to be observed:

Simplicity – Good navigation is an “invisible hand” that guides the user. To achieve simplicity, it is important to scale the content of the application depending on what actions it is most likely to perform.

Preview – Recognizing something is easier than remembering it. In order for the user not to have to remember too many things, the options he has and the actions he can take must be obvious. Navigation should always be available, not just when it is assumed that it will be needed.

Clarity – It must be clear to consumers how to get from point A to point B at a glance. They should not need guidance for this. The most obvious example is with recognizable icons such as the shopping cart. People know they have to click on it to make a purchase.

Sequence – The navigation elements must be in the same place, regardless of which screen of the mobile application the user is on. There must be consistency in messages and actions so as to stimulate involvement.

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Thumb-dependent Navigation

A recent study shows that about 49% of people use only their thumb to perform actions on their smartphones. This defines three main areas of the screen – the first is reached with the thumb directly, to reach the second requires effort, and to use the third it is necessary for the user to change the way he holds the device. Even consumers who mainly use both hands to use their smartphones often rely only on the thumb. That’s why it’s important to place the buttons for the most important screens and the most frequently performed actions in the comfort zone – preferably at the bottom of the screen.

Tab Menu

It appears to be a key element of navigation. Through tabs, which usually contain small icons and only sometimes very short text, users have direct access to the basic functionalities and content of the mobile application. The menu itself is as simple as possible.

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3 main aspects in building navigation

The goal is for users to be able to go wherever they want within the application in the fastest and easiest way. To achieve this, the following rules must be observed when creating the menu:

1. Showing only the most important destinations

These are the screens that are basic and most frequently visited. It is best to reduce them to five so that each tab is large enough to click. Other destinations must be accessed through alternative locations.

It is advisable to avoid scrolling within the menu. It may seem like a good solution to fit more destinations, but practice shows that it is less effective. If more icons are added, users may not look at those that can be reached by scrolling.

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2. Introducing the current location

Users should not be surprised where they are. When they know their location within the mobile application, they can easily find out how to get to the desired destination. In order not to have to explain the navigation, you should rely on the leading visual cues:

Icons – They are used to indicate destinations with content that can be easily represented by a visual symbol – a help questionnaire, a sheet, and a pen for writing text, and so on. When designing icons, you need to assess how familiar they are to the target audience of the mobile application, especially if they will be used without text. The more universal they are, the better.

Color – It is recommended to use only one color for the icons in the menu. It is best to be the main one chosen for the application. If the menu itself is in this color, the icons should be either white or black, so as to obtain good contrast.

Text – It must be short, precise, and clear. Usually, one or two words are used to explain the meaning of the icon. The text should fit on one line and be large enough to be legible.

Tab size – They should be wide enough to touch with your finger without slipping too much out of their outline. When determining the size, it is necessary to follow the guidelines set for the respective operating system – Android or iOS.

Badges to tabs – These are used to announce the availability of new information or messages. They are usually circles placed in the upper right corner of the icons. They contain a number indicating the number of available messages. Their goal is to improve communication in the mobile application.

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3. Obvious navigation

Users should not bother looking for something. They should have the feeling that the mobile application itself leads them to the content they want. To obtain this effect, it is necessary to take into account the following factors:

Behavior – It must be predictable, and surprises are by no means a good idea. Each icon in the navigation menu should open the corresponding destination and not another menu or pop-up window. The navigation menu must not contain buttons to control the items on the screen used. They should be in a separate menu.

Persistence – Tabs must be the same and arranged in the same way, regardless of the screen orientation of the smart device. This creates a sense of stability in consumers. The menu should be the same for everyone. If any functionality is not available for the specific user, this should be suggested visually, such as the tab and the icon for it become paler.

Hide menus – This is standard practice when creating mobile applications, especially when it comes to menus located at the bottom of the screen. They are hidden when users scroll down to see more content and appear when the rollback begins. This dynamic gives priority to content and increases engagement.

Creative navigation with floating buttons

This approach is an alternative to traditional menus, taking into account the small size of the screens, especially on smartphones. It simplifies navigation while allowing the mobile app to stand out with an attractive and original design. The so-called floating buttons are distinguished by their round icons that float above the user interface. Touching the round icon on the screen, which usually has a + sign, opens the others to present the entire menu.

It is common in mobile applications for the drop-down menu to come with its own background, which is superimposed over the application screen in question. The purpose of this solution is to make the icons stand out. However, it is not considered very effective, as the content is closed and users must take further action to see it again.

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Navigation is the element of the mobile application that leads users to the desired functionalities and content. In its design and manufacture, it should be used for consumers with the characteristics of real future users. In this way, navigation is created specifically for the needs of the specific target audience. The easier it is for these people to use the application, the more actively they will do it, which will bring real benefits to the business.

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If you want an engaging mobile application with perfect navigation and user experience created especially for your business, send us an inquiry now.

Project Manager

Dinesh Shilak is a tech enthusiast and a dedicated writer who brings a fresh perspective to the world of technology through his engaging blog posts. With a keen interest in the latest technological advancements, Dinesh's passion for the field shines through in his writing.

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