I'm developing a mobile app and dealing with various UI/UX issues. I'm open to all kinds of ideas at this stage, however some designers I consult with seem to be zealots for bottom-navigation and are hesitant in actually analyzing whether the bottom-nav is actually best for my app; they just want me to use the bottom tabs navigation as if it's some UI law.

One point I try to bring up is that my business model has users who aren't typical one-handed mobile users, are tech savvy, would use my app more of a tool, and would spend only a few minutes in it. The app isn't a typical lazy-content-browsing experience where you want to minimize fingers-over-top-of-screen interference, and where you want to keep the use transfixed and spending time in the app.

Anyways, I'd like to hear about situations where a bottom nav was decided-on, or started-with, and you had good reason to eliminate it and go with another navigation design.

Most articles out there talk about eliminating hamburger menus and diving into bottom nav. Is the converse simply going back to hamburger menu?

  • 2020 update: The article linked in MJB's answer is now 7 years old, and is often referenced in other articles touching on this subject. I wish there would be more-and-updated similar studies. Devices and software have changed quite a bit, have they not? As well, I wish there'd be more attention towards specific user groups rather than painting all mobile users with one brush. Instagram/Tiktok users are different than Google-searchers/Email-writers/etc
    – Kalnode
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 17:11
  • In my life/work experience, I've observed 1000's of people use a mobile device... and anytime I've seen someone use a phone one-handed, they are in a consuming mode, lazily browsing a stream of content. As soon as they need to be in a productive mode, they go two handed (cradle style or two-thumb style)... to complete a task more efficiently. Tasks like making a purchase, checking a calendar and booking something, editing a photo, writing an email, etc.
    – Kalnode
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 17:12

3 Answers 3


You're right in questioning in the "one nav fits all" mindset. It really depends on your content. Here's a few things for thought.

Bottom nav is shown to increase engagement

There is a lot of research about this now. I highly suggest looking at Luke Wroblewski, specifically he talks about bottom nav here, here, here and here. Like you said, however, your primary goal may not be driving longer, sustained engagement.

Hamburger menus hide information, but that may be ok

It's proven in research that hamburger menus hide information, but this could be ok. If you need to include several functions but they are not of premier importance, hiding them behind a hamburger menu can be a good solution.

Combinations of nav systems can work

I'd suggest using a nav bar for the top 3-5 things a user is most likely going to be doing in your app. And then if there are more functions available to the user – especially a user who is highly technical and driven to use your app – then placing those in a less-obvious nav structure is fine.

  • Good answer. About your last point, in your opinion, what would be the correct behaviour, to include those top "categories" from the bottom bar also in the side nav or not?
    – Alvaro
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 22:00
  • 1
    @Alvaro in general I'd shy away from duplicating navigation in both places. For example, in an app I've done we have 3 tabs at the top for different kinds of posts, "Scheduled, Drafted, Posted". But in the main nav (in our case a hamburger) we only include the main nav item to get back to this screen, we don't repeat the "scheduled, etc"
    – johnkeese
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 21:23

The bottom navigation is based on the fact that most people hold their phone using one hand, and therefor the bottom of the screen is easier to reach than the top. (See this article)

enter image description here

If you've got data that you're users don't do this, you could get away with placing a navigation at the top of the page. However, hamburger-menu's have been proven again and again to be worse for UX than regular tab-navigation, especially when you only show an icon. If you're going to use a hamburger-menu, atleast show an hamburger icon + the word "menu" to make sure people know it's a menu.

You could actually ask the same question about hamburger-menu's instead of bottom menu's. They aren't user friendly, the reason they are so widely used is because popular apps like Facebook made them populair.

The best solution would be to use a combination of both.

Use a bottom navigation bar, with 2 to 4 items, + a hamburger-icon hiding the rest of the menu. The best would be to have either 3 or 5 items in the bottom menu (including the hamburger) simply because human brains work better with odd numbers.

Here are some examples:

Spotify menu

enter image description here

Facebook menu

enter image description here

Various other menu's

enter image description here


I think bottom navigation depends on what your product/app type, I'm developing an app that run in financial, and we can't use the Bottom-nav in our design, because: 1. Our product has really long title and we can't only show the icon because the product isn't conventional stuff 2. We have more than 5 main menus that would not fit to display all of them (I'm not allowed to hide one of them). 3. Our product isn't like social media which will drive users back everytime they want or continuously.

So we leave it with the hamburger menu, and it works just fine with us.

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