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What do you think about using a tab bar menu of 5 items?

I see, now, many apps are using again the tab bar menus because you can access quickly to the sections in your app....

But, do you think is better that than having more space in the screen to show your content?

In my case I considered using tab bar because is important for the users to access quickly to the sections of the App. My problem is, now I have 5 items, but in the future it could have more items. So, i think perhaps it's better for users the slide menu so the get use to it, and in the future is only adding more options. And the slide menu don't use part of the screen. But I know tab bar is better now with what we have now. Faster to get to the information you are looking for, but in the future I don't know if is going to work with more items.

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In the absence of your tab bar, to gain more space for "content", what are you expecting to use for navigation? –  Evil Closet Monkey Feb 25 at 20:19

3 Answers 3

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Here is what the iOS Human Interface Guidelines say:

Tab Bar

A tab bar gives people the ability to switch between different subtasks, views, or modes.

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API NOTE

A tab bar is contained in a tab bar controller, which is an object that manages the display of a set of custom views. To learn more about defining a tab bar in your code, see “Tab Bar Controllers” and “Tab Bars”.

A tab bar:

  • Is translucent
  • Always appears at the bottom edge of the screen
  • Displays no more than five tabs at one time on iPhone (if there are more tabs, the tab bar displays four of them and adds the More tab, which reveals the additional tabs in a list)
  • Maintains the same height in all orientations
  • Can display a badge—a red oval containing white text and either a number or exclamation point—to communicate app-specific information

Use a tab bar to give users access to different perspectives on the same set of data or different subtasks related to the overall function of your app.

In general, use a tab bar to organize information at the app level. A tab bar is well suited for use in the main app view because it’s a good way to flatten your information hierarchy and provide access to several peer information categories or modes at one time.

Don’t use a tab bar to give users controls that act on elements in the current mode or screen. If you need to provide controls for your users, use a toolbar instead (for usage guidelines, see Toolbar).

Don’t remove a tab when its function is unavailable. If you remove a tab in some cases but not in others, you make your app’s UI unstable and unpredictable. The best solution is to ensure that all tabs are enabled, but explain why a tab’s content is unavailable. For example, if the user doesn’t have any songs on an iOS device, the Songs tab in the Music app displays a screen that explains how to download songs.

Consider badging a tab bar icon to communicate unobtrusively. You can display a badge on a tab bar icon to indicate that there is new information associated with that view or mode.

On iPad, you might use a tab bar in a split view pane or a popover. Do so if the tabs switch or filter the content within that view. However, it often works better to use a segmented control at the bottom edge of a popover or split view pane, because the appearance of a segmented control coordinates better with the popover or split view appearance. (For more information on using a segmented control, see Segmented Control.)

On iPad, avoid crowding the tab bar with too many tabs. Putting too many tabs in a tab bar can make it physically difficult for people to tap the one they want. And with each additional tab you display, you increase the complexity of your app. In general, try to limit the number of tabs in the main view or in the right pane of a split view to about seven. In a popover or in the left pane of a split view, up to about five tabs fit well.

On iPad, avoid creating a More tab. In an iPad app, a screen devoted solely to a list of additional tabs is a poor use of space.

Display the same tabs in each orientation of an iPad app to increase visual stability. In portrait orientation, the recommended seven tabs fit well across the width of the screen. In landscape orientation, you should center the same tabs along the width of the screen. This guidance also applies to the usage of a tab bar within a split view pane or a popover. For example, if you use a tab bar in a popover in portrait, it works well to display the same tabs in the left pane of a split view in landscape.

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The advantage of using tabs in an app design is that it allows you to scope your content and the user can quickly assimilate the relevant content in a specific section. It also allows the users flexibility in terms of quickly jumping between different sections hence serving as an important navigational lead. Given below are some examples of how tabs can quickly assist users in utilizing the app more effectively

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Apple also has detailed reasoning why tabs are useful from a navigation perspective. To quote the human interface guidelines

Tab Bar

A tab bar gives people the ability to switch between different subtasks, views, or modes.

enter image description here

In general, use a tab bar to organize information at the app level. A tab bar is well suited for use in the main app view because it’s a good way to flatten your information hierarchy and provide access to several peer information categories or modes at one time.

Lastly I recommend looking at this article on suggested best practices on how to design tabs for applications : The iPhone Tab Bar -Lessons From Reality

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It all depends on your domain. You should make an analysis about what you want to achieve and then assess whether you should use the tabbar or other forms of menu navigation that save more vertical space.

It mainly depends on:

  • How many item you have to show in one screen to improve user conversion? To know that, you probably have to try and look at the analytics. Let's say, for instance, that you deal hotel rooms and you noticed, by means of the analytics, that you get a better conversion rate when the users see at least 3 offers in one screen. Given this scenario, you have to give priority to the display of the three offers over the tabbar.

  • Can you fit all the relevant information in the list item, given the available height? As mentioned in the previous example, you should show at least three items. Is, with tabbar, the space left enough to put all the relevant information about those offers inside the list? If you have many important information to show (hotel name, distance from the user, amenities, price, discounted price, etc), the space might not be enough with a tabbar in order to have a clean UI.

  • Is it more important for the user to have more instant information about your product or to easily access the different sessions of the screen? To mention again the previous example, if the other sections of the hotel app are a settings panel to change color theme and an about page, it's pretty obvious that you don't need to give the user instant access to them. It's better, instead, to wisely use the space to better show your offers.

It all boils down to figuring out what's better for converting your users and cross the results of the three questions above.

You can then alway adopt fancy solutions to fine tune your UX. For instance: having a tabbar on longer screen (e.g.: iPhone 5+) that get replaced by a side menu when the screen is smaller. This would be a sort of "responsive design" for mobile apps (even though I didn't see it done this way yet).

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