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Are there any particular guidelines about when to use tabs on a mobile interface as against yelp style category buttons(Dashboard) on the landing screen?

Yelp style category buttons(Dashboard): http://www.androidpolice.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/snap20100726_155143.png

Mobile tabs: http://www.blueflameit.com/forums/ft-mobile-iphone.jpg

I think yelp does the category buttons because things like monocle don't fit the tabs metaphor. Is this the only reason though?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

So you mean decision between Dashboard and Tabs. I don't know if there are other reasons behind selecting any one particular, one reason which I came across recently:

Dashboard(yelp style category buttons) is useful when accessible from all pages, this is like Home Screen in websites.

++ This saves you space on each screen of displaying as tabs, and moreover you can put more options in here than tabs.

-- Problem is that you have to navigate to n fro from this screen when required.

Tabs:

++ Easy access on each screen, you don't have to navigate to any other screen.

-- But it takes space on each screen.

Rest depends upon the categorization of your data structure. The number of categories you have and the frequency of user shifting between these categories; which I guess you'll know from your User Requirements.

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Thanks for the answer and the edit. :) –  Viraj Mar 5 '12 at 5:35
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Another plus point for the dashboard is that those big icons are bigger tap targets than the individual tabs, so they're easier to tap. –  martinpolley Mar 5 '12 at 6:30
    
Good point. Thanks. –  Viraj Mar 5 '12 at 19:09
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There isn't really a right or wrong way. It really depends on how your user is likely to want to navigate it.

Generally speaking, tabs work well for navigating between different sections and a dashboard works well for sending users down a particular path.

Think about the sections in your IA and how/when the user would want to switch between sections/tasks.

There is of course the screen real-estate factor to think about with tabs, but don't let that rule out the tabs option if you think that it could work better - there could be other ways to deal with this issue than removing the tabs.

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Tabs:

Not more than 5 tabs. More than that can be grouped as "More" as Apple does in itune iPhone app. You can use this option when you think the users might not need those options all the time. ( rarely they want to click the More).

Dashboard:

When the options are more than 5 and some times the options dynamically increases and the user needs all those options for everytime use, opt for dashboard just like old facebook iphone app.

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