What is the preferred method of navigating between tabs in an android app? Is it:

android tabs

a. Clicking on them?
b. Swiping left/right?

I can't seem to get a definitive answer from the android design guidelines page.

I'm porting an iphone app that has a 3 tab homepage with a number of swipeable feeds (much like the bbc news android app). Rough wireframe:

my wireframe

If the preferred behavior is to swipe through tabs then this page will need to be re-designed.

  • 1
    Both. You should make sure to support both touch and swipe. Feb 13, 2013 at 22:03

4 Answers 4


Guidelines from Android Developers

Fixed tabs should always allow the user to navigate between the views by swiping left or right on the content area. http://developer.android.com/design/patterns/actionbar.html

If your app uses action bar tabs, use swipe to navigate between the different views. http://developer.android.com/design/patterns/swipe-views.html

Practices from award-winning application

The design of your application is similar to the previous implementation of "Pulse News" (Android).

They used tap instead of swipe to avoid accidental context switch.


I'd say to use taps on the tab. To me, it's more intuitive because I would think to tap on that thing if I wanted to go there. Swiping is more work that necessary to get the same effect, and can actually confuse the user.

This can deliver a double functionality, too, because you could optionally give the functionality to swipe the tabs bar like your feeds if you had more than three visible tabs.

  • +1 Even when there are more tabs than fit in the view port, I'd sooner use navigation arrows than trying to get a user to swipe tabs. As mentioned in my comment to A.Macdonald's answer: before this question it had never occurred to me to swipe tabs. Feb 13, 2013 at 18:54
  • Swiping between tabs is something that google is trying to push at the moment - developer.android.com/design/patterns/…
    – boz
    Feb 13, 2013 at 21:05
  • Excellent point, Marjan! Also, I'm not an Android user, boz, so I wasn't aware of their initiative. Personally, it still seems counterintuitive. There's a fine line between using what's familiar and trying to teach something that may be new or even more efficient, yet entirely unfamiliar. In this case, swiping tabs isn't really useful for anything more than being a different, more bothersome way to navigate. Feb 13, 2013 at 21:45
  • @MarjanVenema Actually, I disagree with using arrows to scroll through tabs; the scroll arrows are virtually always at the extremes of the screen, which can make them difficult to use when you have a phone in a protective case. If swiping to move through a horizontal arrangement of GUI items is an option in your design, meaning that there is a definite area in which to swipe, in which the obvious effect of a swipe would be to scroll, then I as a user want to be able to use that gesture.
    – KeithS
    Feb 13, 2013 at 22:12
  • However, that means that I do totally agree with Jordan's answer to the OP; you tap on a tab to select it.
    – KeithS
    Feb 13, 2013 at 22:15

As an Android user I say swiping between tabs is the future... I instinctively attempt it on tabbed interfaces and where a component has internal swipes (like your scrolling gallery above) then I would expect them to work separately and not swipe the container aswell...

I would obviously expect the tabs to work on clicks also... loads of work to make it seem simple eh?

  • 1
    Well I am an Android user and before this question it had never occurred to me to swipe tabs... Feb 13, 2013 at 18:52
  • once you've swiped there's no going back :) Soundcloud, Facebook and Flipboard as Android apps on my HTC One X introduced me to swiping tabs and it is now second nature... Feb 13, 2013 at 22:32
  • Oh gosh, now there is another addiction I need to be aware of... ;-) Feb 14, 2013 at 7:06

Do some reaserch and consider which content will be more interesting for your potential users, and where/when they want to use swipe gesture more often.

I think that:

1) when you have a lot of tabs with different content which will be frequetly used - add swipe as alt option

2) when content in individual tab is less desired and users do not have to switch between them often - use taping only

It really depends on content which will be in this tabs. If you do not need big pictures, long description etc. then option with swipe insert single tab will be just fine.

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