March 2017 – Mobile Menu Design & Navigation

In the past few years, banks, brokerages, asset managers and credit card issuers have steadily added more features to their mobile apps, making effective menu design and navigation increasingly essential to avoid cluttered and inefficient platforms. In Corporate Insight’s 2015 Bank Customer survey, 80.5% of iPhone users, 74.6% of Android users and 81.3% of iPad users said that a clear and logical app navigation structure was “very important” or “extremely important” to them. As such, it is critical that firms offer mobile apps that allow clients to move intuitively through the platform and access all available features quickly and easily. In this report, we assess each of the 27 firms in the Mobile Monitor coverage group to see how users move through their apps, paying close attention to main menus as well as other techniques and features firms employ to aid users in navigation. To add depth to our analysis of mobile navigation and information architecture, we conducted a usability test comparing two banking apps and two credit card apps with differing navigational structures against each other.

Vertical slideout menus are the most popular navigation style, with 23 firms (85%) using this menu type for all or at least one of their apps. Horizontal tab menus are not uncommon, however, as 12 firms (44%) in our coverage group use this menu type for all or at least one of their apps. Horizontal menus were universally preferred over slideout menus in our user testing because it presents key options at a glance, unlike slideouts, which may require substantial scrolling and multiple taps to reach desired options. Additional findings from our user testing research suggest that firms should offer multiple routes to a given feature and found that users encountered issues when links and action items were not obviously tappable.

Regardless of the main menu design, single menu options often lead to complex app sections. Such sections should include navigational aids like intra-page tabs and back buttons to allow for easier navigation from areas deep within an app’s architecture. Recently, firms in our coverage group have also begun offering customizable app options to improve their navigation schemes. Ten firms (37%) now allow clients to customize the app’s navigational elements in some form. Examples of this include personalizing app dashboards, selecting which options appear in main menus or using voice navigation via virtual assistants.