Google: Android's 'hamburger' navigation drawer isn't going anywhere

Google Android Hamburger Navigation Drawer

Hear ye, hear ye, citizens of the Android universe: The reports of the Android navigation drawer's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Have you heard all the hubbub surrounding this? Ever since the release of Google's redesigned Google+ app last week, folks have been declaring the standard Android navigation drawer -- you know, the menu that swipes in from the left of an app, usually indicated by a set of three horizontal lines (often called a "hamburger" icon, despite its lack of ketchup) -- to be on death row.

Why would that even matter, you might wonder? Simple: The navigation drawer is a big part of Google's guidelines for Android developers. Those guidelines are in place to help create consistency throughout the platform and encourage developers to design apps that work the way we expect them to work on Android. Over the past couple of years, that navigation drawer and its accompanying "hamburger" icon have become a big part of that native-seeming look and feel.

With its new Google+ app, though, Google ditched the standard design pattern and replaced it with a series of drop-down menus. Given the fact that it's an official Google app we're talking about, that deviation from the norm has been generating lots o' buzz.

Google+ App Before and After

The Google+ app, before redesign and with a nav drawer (left) and after redesign and without it (right)

Rumors have also pointed to a similar sort of drawer-free redesign for the Gmail app, which only adds fuel to the "Bye-Bye Hamburger Icon" fire. (Random thought: Does a fire under the hamburger icon equal a tasty UI barbecue?)

Put your pitchforks and/or grilling utensils down for a minute, though: According to a member of Google's Android team, all the talk of Android's current design pattern being tossed away is unfounded.

In a comment within a private discussion community for Android app developers on Google+, Android Developer Advocate Roman Nurik responded to a post discussing the alleged impending doom of our beloved side-swiping panel. His remark:

I don't often comment on rumors, but (1) the navigation drawer pattern is NOT going away any time soon and (2) it's very easy to mock up a UI and throw it on your Android device (I even wrote a tool that lets you do that).

Google Android Navigation Drawer

So interpret what you will from Google's own design choices with its G+ app. The change does create some curious new inconsistencies within Google's suite of Android apps, which were just starting to gain a consistent universal style -- and that is a bit odd -- but according to Nurik, it's not indicative of any broader platform-wide dismissal of the nav drawer concept. In other words, there's no need to panic (unless you suffer from some sort of panic disorder, in which case a frenzied state is completely understandable).

Android Power Twitter

With any luck, we'll hear more about all of this at Google's upcoming I/O developers' conference, set to take place in late June. This year's event is supposed to revolve around the themes of "design, develop, and distribute," so a discussion of the state of Android design seems plenty plausible.

In the meantime, let's all just have a hamburger and relax, shall we? I'll do the grilling if you bring the buns.

(Thanks, Paul Burke!)

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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