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I have seen both used frequently throughout the mobile web. Some examples are news sites with fixed nav bars:

Time keeps the URL bar static, which keeps their nav buttons in the same place while scrolling:

Time

Yet IBTimes allows default browser behavior, which makes their fixed nav bar placement inconsistent, yet gives you more screen real estate.

IBTimes

I can see benefits to both, so I'm wondering if there are any sort of metrics or research on which method is preferred by users.

  • It's probably worth thinking about what metrics would show a user preference? How would you test this? Self reported preference in user testing might not match behaviour and A/B testing would report behaviour not preference. I would think most people have never thought about it or noticed the difference and so wouldn't have a preference and would just make one up if asked. What behaviour do you want to encourage? – edeverett Jun 19 '14 at 10:37
  • Time.com seems to use some hacks to unhide the URL bar, which make the site unusable in Opera — it jumps back to top after trying to scroll. Don’t do this. – kinokijuf Sep 13 '14 at 17:11
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I don't know about research but there seem to be two issues here:

1) Fixed or dynamic URL bars - surely this should be delegated to the OS. The users will be most familiar with the default setting of their OS so it's almost certainly best to leave it at that.

2) Fixed nav bars - this is design dependant and what users will prefer depends on how appropriate the design is to their goals. Both can be part of a good design that will delight users or a crappy design that will infuriate. Be aware though that mobile users will often be seeing your design in a wrapper of another app (ie. facebook) that inserts it's own fixed header so if your header is fixed it can reduce the real estate available for your content further.

  • Hey edeverett, thanks for the response. Perhaps I didn't illustrate the differences clearly in those examples.. both sites actually have a fixed nav bar. My application is a music player with a scrollable playlist in the body, so having a fixed navigation bar with standard controls (play, pause, etc) seems natural. The real issue is whether or not to let the browser's URL bar hide, as this will allow your fixed nav bar to move with the URL bar until the URL bar is completely hidden. I understand that delegating to the OS is usually best, but it seems having a fixed nav bar may be an exception. – pastudan Jun 19 '14 at 18:02

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