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The new trend of side navigation menus has taken over Android apps - Facebook, Evernote and now youtube and google+ are all doing the side navigation menu like here:

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Though it seems like this has been around for a while, looks like its picking up and there was even a question by a developer at the android fireside chat at Google I/O 2012 about whether this component would go into the developer library.

Now I am developing for tablets and it seems like this is a good idea to implement as a developer. But I am not a UX guy and I wonder if this works as well for tablets as it does for phones. I know fragments are a better approach as I have been reading everywhere, but to me this seems pretty nice to have in a tablet also and dont see the problem with it. My question is two fold:

  1. Is this is a good UI pattern for Tablets (10.1 inch)? If not what better alternatives are there since I have a pretty deep hierarchical levels of navigation.
  2. Are there more patterns similar to this which help render say table of contents more effectively in Android?
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What I've seen done well on iPad is having a sliver of a sidebar like this always available, and you can tap/drag to expose the whole menu. However Android ICS has more firmly established the "drag pages side to side to see other sections" pattern –  Ben Brocka Jul 1 '12 at 15:06
    
Google Play uses this even on tablets! –  djagatram Jul 3 '12 at 11:47

2 Answers 2

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I adore pane layouts for tablets. Implemented well, they use the extra screen space on tablets in a beautiful, yet functional way. Whether it's always there or not depends on the purpose of your app. If users will want the entire screen to view something, then being able to toggle the pane will be beneficial to them. You could even start with the side menu and let a user lock it into place and then convert it to a pane fragment.

If it's more of a consumption app, the pane can just live on the side, as it does in Gmail, Reader, Contacts, etc.

Additional discussion on the nav menu from Android UI Patterns

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I am accepting this because I think pane layouts can be brilliantly used to create beautiful apps and one can have multiple panes and utilize the screen sizes efficiently –  Slartibartfast Oct 29 '12 at 17:41

I think it depends on what else is there. If you have (for example) a list/details view where you present a list of items on the left and the details for the currently selected one on the right, this pattern would still work great. Depending on the size of the tablet the menu would not fit - and it might also distract the user.

Google+ for example uses this pattern on tablets as well. You wouldn't want to see the menu all the time.

Anyway: If still in doubt, please add a screen/sketch of what your content is going to look like. This would help.

Regarding fragments: Those are commonly used on tablets. For example in a list/details view you would use a ListFragment for the list on the left and a normal Fragment for the details. So you will probably end up using Fragments anyway. Keep in mind that on portait mode you might not have enough space for all content. In this case Fragments prevent unnecessary code duplication among multiple Activities.

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