Menus help in providing users quick access to commonly used functions. However, displaying menu hierarchies is difficult on smartphones due to the constraints of screen sizes and input capabilities. This paper presents an experimental study comparing Android’s side drawer navigation pattern, where all top-level destinations are shown in one single view, and a tab bar navigation pattern, in which top-level content is split between a persistent row of tabs and an extended table list, introduced in iOS.
A smartphone prototype web application was developed to investigate search performance using the two navigation patterns. Twenty-two participants were brought into a controlled lab to perform 120 successful known-item search trials of numeric values. Results from the study shows that the tab bar navigation pattern allows for faster selection time and scored better user satisfaction, with no noticeable impact on error rates. The findings provide insight around accessibility, reachability and design implications when developing smartphone application for various screen sizes.