I am developing a whisky app. As you can see in the schema below, the app navigation contains circular loops. During navigation the user can swipe for the sidemenu to go directly back to timeline, top100 etc.

Here and there I read that circular navigation in apps is considered bad practise. If so, I don't see how I can reorganise this navigation without giving up the flexibility for the user to explore whiskies from the brand, distillery and user pages.

The app starts with the timeline view (marked yellow). The side-menu items are in the grey rectangle.

enter image description here

  • 4
    Where's the beginning? What's the home screen? – Ken Mohnkern Jul 5 '17 at 13:42
  • The timeline is the home screen with, friends, timeline, top100, deals and search in the side menu – Bas van Dijk Jul 5 '17 at 13:48
  • Consider how a hardware Back button should navigate within your app. If a user follows a cyclic path to get to a particular view, do you want the Back button to reverse the entire cycle, or should it only go back to a certain point, after which it will return to the device's home screen rather than backtracking to the previous point in the user's navigation path? – Dan Henderson Jul 5 '17 at 21:47
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    I think making the back button behave different than going back one page is not recommended. Then the hardware back button behaves different than the arrow in the menu, which I think is confusing – Bas van Dijk Jul 6 '17 at 6:16

People sometimes recommend against cyclic navigation from a UX perspective is because the user might have to backtrack quite far to get to the original page they were looking at.


Is this really a problem?

No, not in practice. In fact, most apps which revolve around discoverability have cyclic navigation. For example, the iTunes, eBay and Amazon apps:

Amazon app discoverability


The reason it's not a problem?

Because at any point the user can press the menu button and navigate directly to a category, instead of pressing back multiple times.

Amazon menu

And any disadvantage is vastly outweighed by the benefit of increased discoverability.


Recently Viewed Items

Additionally, you can show recently viewed items to give the user confidence that they can return to something they've previously viewed, without having to rely on the back button.

The eBay app displays this prominently on the homepage of it's app:

eBay Recently Viewed Items


A personal aside: As a whisky drinker myself, I think most of the whiskies I've bought were discovered while cyclically navigating the Master of Malt website. Without cyclic navigation, I would never have otherwise discovered them :)

  • 3
    It goes both ways -- good whisky can also lead to cyclic navigation – A C Jul 6 '17 at 5:56
  • @AC and you can get a feeling of drunk when going back in cycles – Aprillion Jul 6 '17 at 16:03

In an app, this is not really a UX problem and a bad UX practice. In my opinion, this is a lot related to the used technologies if circular linking creates some dependencies. Also, in some cases, this can influence SEO, but for UX I think is actually a good practice to have a logical navigation that is easy to use.

I think your app navigation organizes content by placing it within a hierarchy and having links between screens doesn't make it necessarily circular.

Please consider this definition:

crosslink

a link that goes from one part of a website to another part of the website that is not in the same hierarchical branch, thus breaking out of the pure hierarchy.

Hierarchies are often a very clear organization for a website but don’t fit all types of information. Crosslinks can be very useful for providing alternative paths through a site, but can be confusing if not carefully presented to the user because after clicking on a crosslink, they can end up in an unexpected part of the site and be disoriented.

If displayed in a reasonably clear way (e.g. made distinct from typical hierarchical links) and used sparingly in places where crosslinks are obviously meaningful and appropriate, they pose few problems, but user testing is recommended if any confusion might occur.

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