In Android Ice Cream Sandwich an up arrow is employed to indicate an expanded group and a down arrow to indicate a closed group. Both seem like non-standard choices, most user interfaces use a right arrow to indicate a closed group and a down arrow to indicate an expanded group. Is there a reason why the Android designers didn't follow convention?

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  • I suppose the down arrows says something like: "click here to expand this down below, while the up arrow says: "click here to move the children back up again!"
    – Kweamod
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 10:51

2 Answers 2


I don't know the actual reason, you'd have to ask someone on the dev team there but here's my understanding.

Using right arrows to show a closed menu and a down arrow to show an expanded menu is a visiblity of system status indicator. It indicates that a group is either open or closed.

The android arrows on the other hand, are not meant to show the status of the folder (Open or Closed). They're meant to show the user that clicking on it will either open or close the folder. They're action buttons. The down arrow indicates that this group CAN be clicked on and something will go down, and when open the group can be clicked on to close that group.

You can change the arrow's direction if you'd like to follow conventions.


I believe in this case the arrow down is a signifier that gives the user 2 pieces of information:

  • "Hey, there's more content"
  • "Ah, and that content will appear below here"

In my opinion, the arrow down is in this case more accurate than an arrow right because it shows where the new content will actually be displayed (i.e., below).

The arrow up is again a signifier.
Its opposite direction maps an opposite effect compared to the one the user has just experimented: while the arrow down opens the panel, the arrow up closes it.

Arrows up and down are in my opinion intuitive, mainly because:

  • They let the user create the right conceptual model of how the interface will operate (see "The design of everyday things", Don Norman, 2013, pag. 25)
  • In the physical world we are already familiar with this kind of ON/OFF, vertical interfaces (e.g., light switches).

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