Google Material Design guidelines recommend to use Floating Action Buttons primarily for a promoted action. However, recently there seems to be a rather solid emerging trend to use these buttons for triggering transition between two or more views, which don't necessarily contain actions.

For example: Switch between two views

Is this a recommended UX practice?

3 Answers 3


What it does is not as important as what it means in your app

There is excellent detail on the use of the floating action (or FAB) button in this talk from Google's Material Design Team (it provides much better detail than the Material Design documentation!):

About FAB's

  • FAB's are designed to stand out. They are colorful, raised, and grid-breaking. This is a deliberate use of cognitive dissonance to draw a user's attention.

  • Because they are so prominent/intrusive, FAB's should be used once on a page or not at all. Google's Material Design team illustrates the relative frequency of different types of buttons:

enter image description here


FAB's are intended to be used for:

  • Hallmark actions that embody or signify the application itself. For example, a music app may have FAB that represents Play. An Instagram-like app might have a FAB that represents Take Photo. In both of these cases, the FAB represents a hallmark action that embodies what the app is about.

  • The primary action on the page. In both of the examples above, the Play and Take Photo buttons also represent the most common and important action on the page for the user.

    • Note that the most common action may not represent the most common task. For example, in a calendar app, 80% of users may open the app to review calendar entries. But since that doesn't involve an action (other than scrolling), there is no need for a button for this task. Here, the most common action might be to create a calendar entry, so a designer could legitimately show a + FAB to create an entry.

Both of these guidelines are from the Material Design specification itself.

What does this mean for views?

A FAB can certainly represent a view change. The key question is: does that view trigger represent a hallmark and/or primary action for the page?.

For the nice example you provided, the answer is probably no, since it looks like a case of poor design:

  • The title of the page is The Current Chart, but the page doesn't actually show the chart until the user clicks the FAB, which is terrible, anti-pattern design (the designing is making the user do work just to see the primary point of the page!)
  • 1
    Great answe as usual, can't believe nobody voted it up!
    – Devin
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 4:49

You're saying that many people aren't following the standard correctly, and asking for opinions.

There are two things, here, about which I have an opinion.

Standards need to be followed. To me, a widespread failure to follow the standards reinforces the need for UX practitioners and UI designers to do a better job at following the published standards.

Professionals can argue the details this way and that, with everyone able to justify a different conclusion. THIS is why standards exist. The decision's been made for us, so we can all be consistent, with all the benefits to users that flow from consistency.

My opinion: follow the standard that Google set out, until they change it.

Animation flushes short-term memory, so avoid animation. The Materials guideline is new, and it's easy to see sexy details—like animation—and want to use them everywhere. But the problem with too much animation is that it triggers a looming-stimulus response. This is an involuntary response, much like startling. It takes place in response to an unexpected change in our visual field. In response, the brain does these things:

  • release some adrenaline.
  • dump anything in short-term memory.
  • do a visual re-scan of the environment.

This looming-stimulus response, or defensive arousal, is great when something unexpectedly jumps out at you. What if it's a tiger or a bear? Having a brain that forgets whatever you were just doing (dump short-term memory), takes stock (visual re-scan), and prepares for action (release adrenaline—to run or fight) is definitely an advantage in the real world, where, if not tigers and bears, cars and people might bump into you.

enter image description here

Why has the looming-stimulus response evolved? To help us pay attention to things that move.

But having a brain responds to unexpected visual change in this way is much less useful when the trigger is merely some unexpected movement on your phone, in the form of an animation. Because releasing adrenaline increases stress. And dumping short-term memory leaves people wondering: "Wait, what was I doing?" That doesn't help people complete tasks on their devices, however beautifully animated to the Materials standard. Since a looming-stimulus response is involuntary, users cannot choose not to react.

As UX designers, we cannot expect users to overcome evolutionary advantage just because we've had a few years of phone animation in our hands. Triggering a looming-stimulus response likely isn't good design.

My opinion: use the animation sparingly. If Google allows you to choose a static UI or a less animated UI, favour that.

  • 1
    I went through Material Design guidelines for the Floating Action button once again, and noticed that they do describe the use of it as a trigger for displaying additional "sheets of material that are part of the app structure." See in particular sections 'Trigger' and 'Morph': google.com/design/spec/components/… So, I guess this sufficiently answers my question, doesn't it? Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 13:23
  • 1
    @JeromeR: some days ago I was answering a question about full screen video backgounds and tried to explain the reason why NOT to use them based on testing and research. Didnt know this underlying reasoning and now is like I just saw the light. great explanation,, great reasoning. I'm not sure this answers the question, though, but the basics of reaction to movement are beautifully explained, would have give tjis a +10 if I could
    – Devin
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 4:47
  • Thanks, Devin. I'm glad you found the information helpful.
    – JeromeR
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 4:52

The term "non-action" may be not the best option for this situation. The transition occurs when the user clicks on the button / link. That is an action there that change the data displayed, even it is a link and not a button.

Even is an action, I understand from the Material Design Blog that is not recommended to use floating actions like changing screen.

Avoid using floating action buttons for minor and destructive actions, including the following:

  • Archive or Trash
  • Nonspecific actions
  • Alerts or errors
  • Limited tasks like cutting text

enter image description here

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