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A Guide to App Navigation Patterns

A Guide to App Navigation Patterns

Vimlesh Gautam
 min read
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Mobile applications that offer intuitive in-app experience have an edge over the millions of others on the app store. Regardless of the genre that a mobile app belongs to, businesses want their apps to be easily navigable. Sometimes, even the apps with the most useful resources come with a steep learning curve and fail miserably. Once a user downloads an app, they must know where to go and how to reach a  destination. 

App navigation patterns define the usability and end-user experience of an app. When optimized, simple app navigation practices can surge app traffic, conversions, and even retention rates. Entrepreneurs, designers, and developers collectively endeavour to create a smooth customer journey and simplified app navigation patterns for a common goal.  

Good app navigation patterns enhance user experience. However, given the limitations of the small screen of smartphones and the need to prioritize content offering the ease of app navigation is a challenge. UI design practices can mitigate such problems efficiently. 

Below we will discuss some app navigation patterns which have proven to enhance user experience.

Types of App Navigation Patterns

Credits: Design Your Way

1. Full-Screen Flat Menu Navigation

Real estate on a mobile screen is limited. Presenting too much information within a tight space can scare a user away, hampering navigation experience quality. Instead, UX designers must impress users with appropriately categorized content. Full-screen flat menu navigation can boost content consumption by omitting any scope of confusion.

This app menu style also encourages a user to move back and forth in a category and even to the main menu by clicking the back button on the top left. For knowledge sharing or skill-building apps, this navigation remains the most suitable choice.

2. List Type/Hamburger Menus

List type or Hamburger menu is a smart way to accommodate a lengthy menu into the limited screen space of mobile phones. It features a compact actionable button which is placed on the top left of an app.

Mobile app UX designers cleverly use this kind of menu to hide the less essential elements away from the main screen and into a side panel. This leaves the main screen of the app clutter-free, devoid of the less critical content. Sometimes, app makers also believe it is beneficial to hide elements like Profile, Help, Settings, and Bookmarks into the side panel as they are less used or have little relevance to the primary app experience they are trying to sell.

3. Bottom-Bar Menu

Credits: UX Planet

The Bottom Bar menu comprises hotkeys pinned to the foot of the app design. 

Through this kind of menu, users can directly access the features that offer top value. Mobile app users especially love the UI design pattern for the bottom bar menu because it allows them to hold their phone while using their thumb comfortably.

In terms of usage, it is far less straining and brings down the need to change the method of holding the device. It increases app usability. Optimally, the app UX must carry only five keys/buttons in the bottom bar menu. Always remember that the buttons need to be comprehensible.

4. Top-Tab Menu

In direct contrast with the bottom bar menu, the Top Tab Menu is placed majestically on the top of the app screen. UX designers display all the elementary features of an app on its Top Tab menu. Users are accustomed to exploring the mobile screens top-down. Placing the menu bar at the top of a screen poses distinct advantages. 

5. Gesture-Based Navigation

Credits: Smashing Magazine

The evolution of smartphones has made Gesture-Based Navigation an inevitable part of mobile app design. This kind of navigation allows users to quickly swipe in the desired direction to navigate through an app or perform a particular action. Gesture-based navigation is relatively simple to grasp for even a newbie user. Gestures come intuitively to users and therefore make this specific app navigation pattern a hit in the world of UX design. 


An appropriate navigation pattern for a mobile app would be the one that aligns navigation with a user’s goals and overall journey. App designers must pick out an app navigation pattern that helps their target segment accomplish their primary goals on the app with the utmost ease. Wisely picking app navigation patterns can help app businesses add value to the interface design, empowering users with hassle-free access to solutions.

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