Navigation Patterns are determined by the structure of the application content. Navigation patterns can be combined with command patterns to design the complete layout for your application.
Patterns for a flat content structure
When pieces of content are not grouped, the content structure is flat.
- Examples include a playlist, a slideshow or a list of documents or contacts.
One at a time
- These patterns are useful when each piece of content is meant to be shown one at a time.
- Controls are provided to allow the user to move from one piece of content to the next.
- Examples include a slideshow, or a video or music playlist, a web browser or setup for newly installed software
Multiple at once
- These patterns are useful when multiple pieces of content are intended to be shown at once.
- All essential information about each piece of content is visible or accessible within the pattern without changing layout. * If more space is needed to show the details of a selected piece of content consider the Master-Detail patterns.
- These patterns are useful when multiple pieces of content are intended to be shown at once alongside with a more larger, more complete presentation of the selected item.
- Examples include a contact list that shows the full details of the contact when selected, or a slideshow with the "film-strip" to select photographs.
Patterns for a 2-deep content structure
When all pieces of application content can be grouped into top-level categories, the content structure is 2-deep.
- Examples include picture albums, music albums, an email folder or tags.
- Any flat navigation pattern could be combined to create a 2-deep navigation patterns. However, to maintain visual consistency across applications we recommend always starting with the List-Detail pattern. A few examples are shown above.
Unique 2-deep patterns
- The Collapsible List pattern is a space-efficient way of showing 2-deep content. This pattern is useful for plasmoids and applications where the layout must be compact.
- The Crossbar pattern arranges categories vertically and the content within the selected category horizontally. This pattern is often used for navigating video libraries.
Patterns for a 3-deep content structure
When all pieces of application content can be grouped into categories, which can themselves be grouped into top-level categories, the content structure is 3-deep.
- Content structures this deep should generally be avoided.
- There are instances, however, where it may be difficult to avoid.
- Examples include a full music or video library or system settings.
- As before, navigation patterns could be combined to create a 3-deep navigation pattern. However, to maintain consistency across applications, we recommend always starting with a List-Detail pattern with a Collapsible List. A few examples are shown above.
Patterns for n-deep content structures
When content is infinitely groupable, the content is n-deep.
- Content structures this deep should be avoided. It is very difficult for the user to maintain awareness of their location in content structure relative to other content.
- There are instances where this structure cannot be avoided.
- Examples include file systems and archives.
- These patterns provide awareness of the path within the content structure.
- Interaction is usually required to determine location relative to adjacent content on the previous level.
- The pattern may also be applied to 2-deep and 3-deep content structures.