Notes on LukeW’s Conversations@Google 2016

(From Part 1 a 2-part talk LukeW gave at Google, uploaded 10/5/16, link here)

Increase in mobile time spent:

  • 8% small phone
  • 85% on a medium phone
  • 334% increase on phablets
  • 81% increase on small tablets
  • 25% increase on large tablets

Bottom nav is preferable to top nav due to ergonomics—esp phablets—it’s much harder to reach top nav. And the millennials in particular are all about using only one hand for their phones

Before LukeW redesigned the navigation of the Google+ app

  • All functions where under a Home label on a dropdown menu at the top of the screen
  • All features were listed and equally weighted in the dropdown
  • It wasn’t clear for new users what to do first–when users did find the dropdown, it required a large cognitive load to even sort the possibilities

During the redesign

  • They tested top and bottom nav bars
  • Tested icons with and without labels
  • They did quantitative and qualitative research to determine what the most popular actions within the app were
  • After testing, they settled on a bottom nav bar highlighting the most popular actions with icons and labels
  • New users now immediately start tapping icons and acting, existing users like the focus on their most popular actions
  • Testing showed that the action with the highest correlation to people returning the app for a second time was the Collections feature
  • However, for people still returning after 6 weeks, the Communities feature was now the clear leader
  • Some both were added to the nav bar, which lead to a 600% increase in button usage and a 300% increase in people following collections

Check out Amazon Music to see how they migrated their nav to the bottom and added a swipe-up gesture to the Play button to expose all related play options

The Apple Maps redesign did the same thing

  • All controls are now at the bottom
  • Users swipe up to see related details about a location
  • Both Amazon Music and Apple Maps have visual affordances to lead a user to try swiping up
  • BUT be careful: Apple Music does not give a visual affordance so it’s harder to notice. Also users have to swipe up once to expand the narrow Now Playing cell to the entire screen. But then they have to swipe up AGAIN to see repeat, a song listing etc

Note that Android Material Design guidelines were recently updated to include bottom nav bars (which previously had been strongly discouraged, probably from a design pattern rather than an ergonomic standpoint)

The #1 complaint about the redesign was that the bottom nav bar took up too much space when scrolling

  • So they updated the app so that the bottom nav scrolls down as users scroll up through content
  • The nav reappears when they scroll down again
  • By having the scroll up action visibly lower the nav bar, users are taught to expect that scrolling down will bring it back up

App designers are increasingly thinking more about the ergonomics of using a thumb to interact on the phone—swiping up, down, left, right is particularly easy. Some are also support one OR two fingers for scrolling for increased ease of use / less opportunity for a gesture that doesn’t work

Bigger screens invite bigger gestures—let people use the entire screen as a control

  • Tap anywhere to release a modal
  • 3 (or more) finger pinch anywhere to release a photo lightbox

“Products without a point of view have no point” Steve Sinofsky

(Luke spoke extensively about the trends in smartphone usage, most of which I didn’t recap here so use the link if you’re interested in more)

LukeW is an internationally recognized digital product leader who has designed and built software used by more than one billion people worldwide. (from


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