App Strategy Series Pt. 3: Mastering Discoverable Navigation in 3 Simple Ways
We are back with the last and final part of our App Strategy Series – sharing some of our learnings and strategies about key mobile app features. In part one we dove into thoughtful notification strategies, and in part two we focused on the importance of clear and concise copy.
In this final chapter, we are going to highlight the benefit of simple and discoverable navigation. Let’s dive in and get you started on where you want your users to go!
The previous two parts of this series centered around the subject of user experience – if folks find something inconvenient or confusing, they’ll stop using it. The same goes for our next subject regarding navigation. The usability of your mobile app is so important to pay attention to – if something is too hard to maneuver around, a user will eventually give up and move on to something else. When you make navigation simple for users, you're getting them to both where they need to be and where you want them to go.
Navigation should encourage users to engage and interact with content. This can be done by implementing features in a way that supports the structure of your mobile app and web experience, without distracting the user from the intended behaviours. By helping users navigate your app, you're giving them an incentive to continue using your product and instilling confidence that surely will lead to increased in-app conversions.
After years of designing and developing apps, here are 3 easy ways you can ensure you’re making things effortless for your users:
Bigger Isn’t Better
Navigation must be discoverable and accessible while occupying as little screen space as possible. Yes, you want to make sure that users understand how to navigate, but that doesn’t mean your navigation interface elements need to be the focus of the screen. While you want to make sure elements are not consuming the screen space available, you do need to ensure that elements are big enough for users to interact with. It’s also important to keep in mind to provide space between navigation elements so that folks aren’t tapping buttons they didn’t intend to.
Ensure you’re testing your navigation elements with users throughout the prototyping process. This will allow you to see how users interact with your designs. The last thing you want is to release an app that you soon find users are abandoning because they can’t use it the way your team intended.
The trouble with navigation bars and filters is that the list of elements to include has the potential to get quite long. Navigation should accommodate the needs of the majority of users. You can find out what your user is looking for and where they spend the most time through data analytics and user feedback. Capitalizing on those analytics and feedback, we recommend assigning different priority levels to common user tasks and giving prominence to paths and destinations with high priority and frequent use. Once you have implemented navigation that you believe accommodates the majority of your users, extensive testing is required. You always want to ensure that your designs are intuitive and that you understand your users as much as possible.
Graphic components – including icons – should help users understand the options within your navigation bar. Icons are great tools to communicate key messages of the product and assist users in understanding where they ultimately want to end up on your app.
Users are accustomed to specific icons – just as a stop sign is designed similarly almost universally throughout the world, users expect particular icons (i.e. the bookmark or camera icon) to be the same in any app. By utilizing icons that users are universally familiar with, you can ensure that you are effectively communicating, resulting in navigation that is simple. Wherever possible, we suggest including labels below or beside icons to increase understanding.
As Nick Babich, Product Designer and Editor-in-Chief of UX Planet says, “if it takes you more than 5 seconds to think of an appropriate icon for something, it is unlikely that an icon can effectively communicate that meaning” – so don’t try to reinvent the wheel where it’s not necessary.
As we’ve said before, our advice isn’t groundbreaking – but if you’ve been following along, you know focusing on these common issues leads to big impacts. It’s the simple tasks that end up being a deciding factor for users.
To see how we’ve implemented these strategies with our clients, check out some of the recent work we did for Co-op and reach out to our team to discuss how we can help you elevate your users' experience and achieve success.