Android Adultery: Navigation


One of the biggest things that has impacted me as a new Android user is the navigational structure and how easy it is to get around the OS. The Android OS leverages navigational patterns on both the user interface layer & device layer. The Android team has done a great job defining the navigational patterns and hierarchical behaviors that an application should have. From the start, navigating through the OS was somewhat confusing due to the specific nuances, however, after a couple of days using the Nexus 4 as my main device, I realized how great the navigational user experience really is. 

Back That Thing Up

Navigating in out of apps in iOS is exhausting.....plain and simple. I found myself constantly opening, closing, & reopening apps & having to go back to the home screen to get back to a different app. The iOS multitasking feature resolves this (kind of), but having to double click the home button and find the app I want with a 4-app-swipe at a time really can be annoying. 


Comparing that experience with the Android experience is truly night and day. The device level navigation really allows for some efficient ways to get around all your apps. The back button acts like you think it would; it takes you back to where you once were. I find myself using this all the time to get back to an app when I tap on a notification. In iOS I would have to go back to my home screen to find the app again or find the app in the multitasking drawer. Android just makes this interaction frictionless.   


The Android "Up" affordance is also pretty interesting. It is the carrot icon inside the application that is always positioned to the left of the app icon in the action bar. At first I thought the up button behaved like a normal back button, however, it is far more specific. It allows you to navigate "up" in the hierarchy of the app similar to a child webpage of a parent webpage in a breadcrumb structure.  This is nice to have when you select a specific email or calendar appointment from the notification drawer. You will go to the specific email or appointment and the Up icon allows you to get to the main inbox or calendar view. Likewise, if I was to tap the back icon I would get back to the home screen. 


Lastly the multitasking button isn't a game changer, but is definitely convenient. It allows you to see all your apps running in the background just like iOS, but it is much easier to switch or close applications compared to iOS. Everything is gesture based and you dont have go into the double-tap-dancing-icon phase to close an app. 

In the end, these things may seem minor to the seasoned iOS veteran, but once I actually started interacting with these patterns on a daily basis, I soon found how seamless my phone interaction were. I think iOS would benefit immensely if it integrated other entry and exit point to an application. Users are always using multiple applications simultaneously, and I think Android has done an amazing job allowing users to truly multi-task. Thumbs up Google.