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App patterns explained : navigation

Canonical

on 13 March 2013

This article is more than 11 years old.


When we design an app, we consider the different types of information we are communicating and their relationships to one another. This helps us establish what content is of equal importance, what we want to be able to do with it, what is a detailed view of something else and so on.

We use three predominant navigation structures to navigate our apps: flat, contextual and deep.

Flat

We call the navigation “flat” when the user moves between main views of functionality that have equal importance. These views are navigated by using the tab navigation structure.

Contextual

We call the navigation “contextual” when the user moves between different levels of detail within one view. These views are navigated by using the expansion navigation structure.

Deep

We call the navigation “deep” when the user moves up and down hierarchical levels of an application. These views are navigated by using the page stack navigation structure.

One last thing

We don’t combine flat with deep navigation in the same view –
the page stack (deep navigation) introduces a back button which, when combined with tabs (flat navigation), could be misinterpreted as another method for navigating between tabs.

And that’s it! Keep these navigation patterns in your mind when you are designing your app.

Read about navigation and the building blocks to make it happen in the App Design Guides.

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