In a detailed blog post, Microsoft’s Windows Apps team have highlighted different methods of providing a good user experience when it comes to navigation.
Microsoft sets out three key principles that they see as being the foundations for good navigation:
- Consistency — meet user expectations
- Simplicity — don’t do more than you need to
- Clean interaction — keep out of your users’ way
For consistency, the company believes that the navigation menu icon should be displayed at the top-left of the screen, explaining that it is a strong user expectation that the menu icon appears here, saying that you could “consider using a non-traditional icon to represent it,” although, the hamburger icon is the preferred method of showing that a menu is there. In terms of the back button, the firm recommends keeping in-line with Windows conventions, by keeping it in the leftmost placement, or in the second-to-the-left area of the navigation bar.
According to the company, it is also good to adjust the placement of navigational elements depending on the device family. For example, for mobile devices, the preferred location is at the top of the screen, whereas on desktop it is on the left side.
Keeping things simple is just as important as the placement of the elements, and as such, Microsoft recommends following the ‘Hick-Hyman Law’, whereby the amount of menu options should be kept to the bare minimum, overall leading to a faster user interaction. This same principle goes for media content; rather than trying to show as much as possible, focus on showing a subtle amount and prompt the user to perform an action to view more.
Finally, clean interaction. It is important to look at the environment and position the user will be using the app in. Microsoft provides this example of a cooking app:
If you’re designing a cooking app, and you’re expecting it to be used in the kitchen, you might want to take into account that the user will probably want to avoid using food-covered fingertips to navigate to the next cooking step. Instead, the user might use a knuckle, the back of his or her hand, or even an elbow. This should influence the size of your touch targets and the appropriate spacing between navigational elements, at the very least.
Following these three principles will, ultimately, lead to an improved user experience, where users can navigate the app more fluently, without having to learn deep menu hierarchies and confusing layouts.