Posted by Allen Huang and Rohan Shah, Merchandise Professionals on Android UI

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One particular of the most significant modifications in Android Q is the introduction of a new gesture navigation. Just to recap – with the new program navigation mode – users can navigate back again (still left/appropriate edge swipe), to the residence display (swipe up from the base), and set off the unit assistant (swipe in from the base corners) with gestures fairly than buttons.

By going to a gesture model for program navigation, we can present a lot more of the display to apps to empower a far more immersive practical experience.

We wanted to give individuals an within glimpse at how we’ve approached this obstacle, the rationale, and some of the trade-offs as nicely. There is some nerding out on style and design all over gestures in advance, but hopefully it gives some perception into our course of action and how we stability the developer and OEM ecosystem in support of people. If you’re looking for additional depth on how to take care of these adjustments as an app developer, test out Chris’s “Going edge-to-edge” short article sequence.

Why gestures?

One of the awesome items about Android is the possibility for app builders and Android associates to check out new, ground breaking approaches on the telephone.

In the past 3 several years, we have witnessed gesture navigation designs proliferate on handheld products (however gestures have been about as early as 2009!).

This craze was led by revolutionary Android companions and Android apps making an attempt some pretty awesome tips (for instance: Fluid NG, XDA).

When we begun exploring this far more, we honed in on the user positive aspects:

  1. Gestures can be a quicker, much more natural and ergonomic way to navigate your mobile phone
  2. Gestures are more intentional than computer software buttons that you may result in just by grabbing your mobile phone
  3. Gestures allow a much more immersive working experience for applications by reducing how a great deal the system attracts in excess of app material, i.e. Home/Back buttons and the bar they sit on – in particular as components traits in the direction of bigger screens and more compact bezels

It wasn’t all roses however – we also noticed challenges with many of the gesture modes:

  1. Gestures do not work for just about every consumer
  2. Gestures are tougher to find out and can take some adjustment
  3. Gestures can interfere with an app’s navigation pattern

But most of all, we understood that there was a much larger difficulty of fragmentation when distinct Android telephones had distinct gestures, primarily for Android developers.

Over the previous year, we labored with companions like Samsung, Xiaomi, HMD Global, OPPO, OnePlus, LG, Motorola, and numerous many others to standardize gesture navigation likely ahead. To guarantee a steady consumer and developer knowledge, the Android Q gestures will be the default gesture navigation for new Q+ devices.

Understanding that these gestures really don’t perform for every consumer, primarily people with far more minimal dexterity and mobility, a few-button navigation will go on to be an option on every Android unit.

So why these gestures?

We started off with research to realize how end users held their telephones, what normal access looked like, and what parts of the cellular phone buyers used the most. From there, we crafted quite a few prototypes that we analyzed across axes like desirability, speed-of-use, ergonomics, and extra. And we place our best style as a result of a range of reports – how immediately end users discovered the system, how promptly users bought applied to the procedure, how customers felt about it.

A one of a kind ingredient of Android navigation given that the quite starting is the Back button. It is appreciated by a lot of end users that locate Android much easier to navigate and study (irrespective of quite a few debates on what the “correct” habits is) — and it truly is made use of a large amount! In actuality, 50% additional than even Dwelling. So 1 of our structure goals was to make sure the back again gesture was ergonomic, reliable, and intuitive — and we prioritized this intention earlier mentioned other considerably less recurrent navigation these as drawers and recents.

Looking at the reachability charts down below, we intended our two main gestures (Again and Household) to coincide with the most reachable/snug parts and motion for thumbs.

Phone screen heatmaps showing where users can comfortably do gestures, holding the phone in only one hand

Telephone display heatmaps displaying wherever end users can easily do gestures, holding the cell phone in only one hand

As talked about, we crafted prototypes of several different gesture versions, evaluating user ratings and timed consumer responsibilities on what in the long run became the Q model to several other navigation paradigms. Here’s a couple of graphs displaying the effects of our testing:

Comparison of user ratings for ergonomics and one-handed use across different navigation modes (higher is better)

Comparison of consumer ratings for ergonomics and 1-handed use throughout distinct navigation modes (higher is far better)

Comparison of average time required to complete Home/Back tasks across various navigation modes (lower is better)

Comparison of typical time required to comprehensive Property/Back again tasks across a variety of navigation modes (reduced is much better)

Comparison of average time required to complete Overview/Recents-based tasks across various navigation modes (lower is better)

Comparison of regular time needed to complete Overview/Recents-based jobs across various navigation modes (decrease is superior)

Buyers, on ordinary, executed responsibilities involving Residence and Again extra rapidly than most other types – even faster than they did with buttons. The product did, even so, occur at the cost of staying able to rapidly access Overview/Recent applications, which buyers go to considerably less than 50 % as usually as the Dwelling display.

From a much more qualitative viewpoint, buyers viewed the Q model as far more a single-handed and reachable, despite the fact that buttons had been nevertheless viewed as far more ergonomic for far more customers.

App Drawers and other App Swipes

Even though we arrived at the side swipe as the gesture for again that very best well balanced many tradeoffs, it is essential to note that there have been challenging conclusions, notably in how that gesture impacted apps.

For illustration, we observed that ~3-7% of users (relying on the Google app) swipe to open up the App Navigation Drawer – the rest of our buyers thrust the hamburger menu to invoke the drawer. This drawer swipe gesture is now overloaded with back again and some consumers will have to have to adapt to employing the hamburger menu. This was a difficult choice but provided the prolific use of back we optimized for what labored most effective there.

Simply because it’s hardly ever a aim to adjust out conduct on users, we tried out quite a few strategies to empower buyers to distinguish the drawer gesture from the Back gesture. Nonetheless, all these paths led to end users pulling in the drawer when they were trying to go Back again and acquiring considerably less self esteem that Again would operate.

Outside of drawers, gestures are a large transform for folks and it took on average 1-3 days to adapt – in particular, end users struggled with designs like swiping right or still left on a carousel and triggering Back again.

In qualitative research, we found that following an first split-in period of time of 1-3 times, customers grew to become fluent and could consistently distinguish involving these two gestures. The majority of end users did not want to switch back again to 3 button nav (even while that continues to be an alternative).

Supplemental analysis showed that there is a obvious adjustment stage for customers to get used to a new method navigation (across quite a few diverse navigations). In our Q product, we discovered that use of Back goes down for the to start with 1-3 days. Soon after that time period, the typical # of Back again presses/day ends up staying the very same as 3-button and our P navigation.

So What Does This Indicate for Builders?

With gestural navigation, we are aiming to transfer forward and standardize the consumer encounter on Android. The design we landed on is the exceptional a person for most people, but it also indicates that some of the gestures conflict with existing app gestures, necessitating developer changes to how consumers interact with your applications. We just take our responsibility to Android developers significantly and want to support you in this procedure.

There are 3 critical measures to assist gesture navigation:

  1. Go edge-to-edge to permit your app to attract across the whole screen
  2. Deal with any visual overlaps with the method consumer interface (i.e. navigation bar)
  3. Take care of any gesture conflicts with the system gestures

We’ve just published the initially article in our “Going edge-to-edge” sequence on Medium, detailing people techniques in convert. The final posting in the collection will cover some of the prevalent eventualities we have observed, and how you can greatest assist them in your apps.

Thank you all for the suggestions — all of your opinions and interactions have helped us improve the gesture navigation working experience in Android Q and, a lot more broadly, enable make Android improved each working day.