Anthony Rose, a co-founder and CTO of zeebox, a social network for television, wrote a column about the problems of navigation in mobile applications. Here’s a small output of what he had to say:
When creating a mobile application with multiple screens interface, designers are faced with a regular problem - how to put all the elements on the small screen of a smartphone. Often, designers draw menu at the top in the form of bookmarks, or a button at the bottom.
However, such decisions take up too much space on the already small screen of the phone. The Zeebox Android team has decided to try to move the topics on the left side screen that slides above the main screen as a side-menu. Thus it is possible to free the screen space, while placing a full list of application pages in the sidebar.
Usability vs. Design
When the Zeebox team was just beginning to create the application, the menu had been horizontal at the top of the screen. Arguments of developers were simple: "Out of sight, out of mind." If the user does not see the available navigation options he will not be aware of their existence.
In the case of a side menu, even if you remember the location of navigation points, it will require an extra step to get into it. Though, of course, the design of the application will be cleaner and fresher.
The idea of transferring the application to navigate through the vanishing area of the screen came probably a year and a half ago. A new trend has been applied in the Facebook application in September 2013. Rose suggested: "Of course, if Facebook did it, it has to be good" - and his team started to design a new interface.
Therefore, after a few months of development, the new version of Zeebox was uploaded to Google Play. In order to ease the understanding of the update, the application showed an open side menu on the first run.
Judging from the reviews in the Google Play, the update was greeted well. But analysts have stated a disaster as the user involvement in the product has halved.
The Amazing Truth
Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the team at Zeebox has released an update two weeks later returning the navigation to its original place. In order not to upset the people who liked the side menu - an opportunity to change the layout was given in the settings.
Six months have passed since then. During the time, the team has expanded functionality - there was an updated personal news channel, TV shows, subscription to the content and so on. All this is was hard to fit on the screen, and Rose again has thought about the experiment with the menu. However, this time he has decided to use the A/B testing tools.
Rose has decided to start using the A/B testing for both prototypes as well as working versions of the product.
In order to test the design models, developers used FLinto - a simple tool for creating interactive prototypes. Twice a week, a few people from the number of users have been coming to the Zeebox office for layout testing. Sometimes the winner layout was revealed immediately. In other instances, such as navigating, some difficulties have been occurring.
For such cases, the Zeebox team has decided to use Swrve. Apart from the fact that the service is able to automatically switch all users to a more successful version of the test, Swrve also allows you to work with specific case studies. "For example, if you are a Comcast subscriber and we noticed that you have not used Zeebox as a remote control then Swrve can send a push notification to the user specifically," - writes Rose.
The developers have started a 48 hours A/B test with a ratio of 15/85 test, where 15 percent of users saw a side menu and 85 - the old navigation. All indicators have declined. The test results gave the same poor results as a year ago.
The good news was that the team could immediately switch all users on the old menu, without releasing an update. By that time Facebook has launched a new version of the application on the iPhone with a constant navigation at the bottom of the screen, giving up the slide menu.
However, on Android, as noted by Rose, Facebook continues to experiment, "Look at Facebook on my phone and the phone of my colleagues, they should be carrying out A/B testing navigation on Android at this time. It would be interesting to know how they are doing with user engagement."
Who Will Win
Co-founder of Zeebox believes that the basic controls should be constantly before the eyes of the user, though you can hide the user settings and application settingsIn the side-menu.
If the product consists of several key screens, it is necessary to consider that applying a side menu can get you a dramatic drop in the level of user engagement within the application.