Technology April 25, 2016 Last updated September 18th, 2018 955 Reads share

4 Key Areas to Consider when Designing a “Menu” for your Mobile App

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When accessing a mobile app for the first time, menus are among the first things a user sees, as soon as he arrives. Menus always guide users towards useful features and content, by acting as a milestone. They are so important that you will find them in every single app, with a common purpose to solve. It is certainly quite difficult to decide the type of menu that will work best in your case.

A menu style totally depends on how your app structure appears to be. If your app has very few menus to display, then it is best to show them flat right away. While hamburger style menus work best, when too many of them to display. Nevertheless, when planning for an ideal menu, you need to think from all possible angles. Do take into consideration all the associated pros and cons, before arriving at a decision.

#1. Visibility is the key to a successful menu

A hamburger menu icon has always been a question of debate with some in favor while others talking against it. It does have the capability to hide menus within it, especially when too many menus to display, saving the app screen real estate. However, for most it comes out as a devil, as users need to click the icon in order to see the navigation, making things even more complex, and navigation longer.

Hidden navigational menus, do have its share of benefits when it comes to small screens. They not only save the screen space but remains hidden if users do not require them to be seen. However, such menus lead to complex navigation, users might find it difficult to understand.

In addition, hidden menus are difficult to recall over a period of time. Menus visible all the time, occupy the minds of users, and they can be recalled, whenever an app is accessed. Henceforth, visible menus escalate user satisfaction and user engagement.

Going by the current trends, apps are making a shift from hiding menus within a hamburger style icon, to layered out visible navigation options. You will also find other innovative ways adopted by app developers, to make menu tabs vanish when not in use. One such popular way is a scrolling feed, wherein the menu tab gets hidden when people scroll down to explore the content, and restored when users scroll back up.

Another mistake that most app designers make is to sort menus within a drop-down list. This leads to user eyeballs able to grab and remember only a few of them, because of the dropdown box overlapping the background interface.

#2. Inform users about their menu location

When users are accessing a specific menu, they tend to forget for what purpose they are accessing the menu for. They get lost within a menu, and the only way to recover is going back to the home screen. It results in navigation taking much more time than expected, frustrating the users. Users totally rely on visual clues, before opening up a menu. If these clues are not as expected, they will certainly have a tough time locating things within an app.

Incorporate universal icons for a menu, so that even a novice user is able to comprehend what the menu is all about. A magnifying lens for the Search Menu, a form for the Contact Us Menu, a home for the Home Menu, a person for the Profile Menu, etc. are some of the most common icons everybody relates with ease. Use contrasting colors for every individual menu, so that easily be identified by users as soon as they see them.

#3. Menus should coordinate with users by themselves

Make use of menu labels, with text extremely basic and simple to understand. Try to read the minds of users, and comprehend what exactly they are looking for. Use menu category names sounding very familiar, and relevant to what a user is searching for.

Do not play around menus, by using out of the blue jargons. You might invent some on your own. However, ensure that those belong to the language, used on a day to day basis. Understandable menu labels help users not only to easily connect with your app, but also let them find what they are looking for with ease. Give a special emphasis to complex menus, difficult to convey. Make use of labels, which will best suit them, and help users to get a gist in spite of the complex nature.

#4. Manipulating menus should be easier for users

As you might have experienced with any app, accessing a menu could be a real deal, considering the limited screen space. If menus are too small, then users will have a tough time to see them, and eventually, click them as well. If menus are too big, users will have a tough time, scrolling and navigating things. Henceforth, keep menus not too small, and not too big. Let them settle down at a size, where they can be easily clicked or tapped.

As per a study from MIT Touch Lab, an average index human finger width is near to 1.6-2 cm, for an average adult. This amounts to 45-57 pixels when converted. Keep your menu size close to this range, allowing human fingers to easily fit within the clicking range. This allows for a clear visual feedback, and telling them exactly whether they are tapping correctly or not. Menus accompanied by a finger friendly design, not only improves app usability, but also lead to an utmost user satisfaction, which is unmatchable.

Focus on getting your app menus right

App navigation has to be a top priority, which should not be overlooked. It directly relates to how an app interacts with the users. An app should have an interaction level that connects well with the mental state of users, understanding their behavior and search pattern. Transparent user flows, a down to earth design, neat and clean visuals, help create an illusion that spreads across a seamless experience to the users. Remember to design for users, rather than doing it for yourself.

Images: ”Modern communication technology illustration with messages and devices /Shutterstock.com

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Shivani Ajmerani

Shivani Ajmerani

Shivani Ajmerani works for Fusion Informatics Ltd., a mobile applications development company that offers Custom iPhone, iPad and android application development services. She loves leveraging the immense potential of the Internet to achieve corporate goals

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