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Haven't worked on an Android app in a bit and was wondering if the system navigation bar needs to be there or not.

Nav Bar

Looking at my husbands phone (I am on iOS), it's not on any of his apps. Is there a new best practice in this regard? I was looking in Google's Material Design guidelines and it doesn't say it's a mandate. Moreover, the Android Developers Guide shows ways to hide it.

I posted this on some Slack channels I am on and some designers are saying it's required while others are saying it's not, so I'd love tor get your thoughts too.

If anyone has any notes on whether this should be kept or not for an optimal experience please let me know. Many thanks!

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    Comparing Apples with Android is always going to be contentious :p I think you also have to keep in mind that some phone models have hard buttons as well (although most tend to have the soft buttons instead). I think whether it is required or not depends on how you design the application rather than a hard and fast rule. – Michael Lai Jul 9 '18 at 23:13
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The Developers' Guide says the following:

Even though this lesson focuses on hiding the navigation bar, you should design your app to hide the status bar at the same time, as described in Hiding the Status Bar. Hiding the navigation and status bars (while still keeping them readily accessible) lets the content use the entire display space, thereby providing a more immersive user experience.

So whenever you deem it appropriate for your app to use the full screen, you can hide the navigation bar (and the status bar). When is it appropriate to use the full screen mode? The next article in the Developers' Guide explains:

You might be tempted to enable fullscreen mode just to maximize screen space for your app. But be mindful of how often users jump in and out of apps to check notifications, do impromptu searches, and more. Using fullscreen causes users to lose easy access to system navigation, so you should use fullscreen mode only when the benefit to the user experience goes beyond simply receiving a little extra space (such as to avoid accidental exits during a game or delivering a valuable immersive exerience for images, videos, and books).

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    Thanks Glorfindel! This is great! Have you seen anything about placing navigation above this bar? (e.g., albeit on iOS but they have it on the bottom in their android app too itunes.apple.com/us/app/bloomberg-business-news/…) I have been reading a lot about how navigation at the bottom of the screen performs well as it's in a zone that is easier for the user to access. However, with Android, is there a huge risk to having the user tap and accidentally leave the app? – Chantel ZP Jul 9 '18 at 19:45
  • Historically, Android placed Tabs at the top of screen (under the ActionBar/Toolbar) to avoid the potential clash with the Navigation Bar. In recent years, however, with screens getting "too damn large", it has made a lot more sense to risk that clash in order to achieve an overall increased usability. – straya Jan 3 at 0:34
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You haven't mentioned what your app's purpose is nor what kind of content it has, and those are important aspects when considering whether to full-screen or not.

If your app is in any way a multitasking/productivity app, then it has use-cases that involve interaction with other apps: e.g. copy/paste between your app and others, reference information in other apps or yours. In that case, hiding the Navigation Bar would decrease multitasking/productivity.

It is unusual for any app to request full-screen mode for every screen in the app - doing so suggests naive UX. E.g. even games shouldn't need full-screen for the lobby.

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