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iOS main navigation is the tab bar at the bottom and Android recently launched the bottom navigation. Normally the search is contextual to the screen you are on, and the entry point is positioned on the top right for iOS and Android, but what if you need a search that searches through your full app. So a real global search. Is it a good idea to put it in the bottom navigation (Android), tab bar (iOS)?

If I look at the guidelines, they both (Android and iOS) recommend to put the main navigation elements there with a maximum of 5 elements. In the app we are building the search is a key feature and needs to search over the full app.

On iOS I saw that the Appstore app, Instagram app and Pinterest app are putting the search in the tab bar. On Android, while the bottom navigation is new, I didn't find any examples.

What is the preferred placement for a global search bar?

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A (top/bottom) bar navigation is a pattern that can be very effective, but isn't widely popular on Android. This is exactly the reason why you were able to find multiple iOS apps who use it, while Android seems to be "lagging behind".

There are multiple articles talking about this in general, mostly how this tabbed navigation should display core features and can replace the hamburger menu in some cases (https://redbooth.com/blog/hamburger-menu-iphone-app).

My answer to you is that if searching is a core activity for your app, it absolutely makes sense to add it to the bottom navigation. You should also consider putting it at the top right corner. There is actually a very good guideline for how to implement this as well in the Material Design Guidelines (https://material.google.com/patterns/search.html).

I'd actually consider doing an A/B test and see how the overall interactions compare with these two approaches.

  • But what about the good UX? People are used to see the search bar on top of the page... so is it good to use it in the bottom navigation where people may not expect to see a search bar? – Jack-in-the-box Aug 17 '16 at 10:35
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    Not necessarily if it's obvious. You can't really miss the permanently visible bottom bar menu featuring a big search icon (+ text) if you're looking for it. There's no fold or scrolling involved and mobile screens really aren't that big. If you want to be extra sure you'll have to do user testing. – Daniel Slowacek Aug 22 '16 at 6:02

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