Mobile App Sidebars- Pro Tips & Mistakes to Avoid for Optimized App Side Navigation

Mobile apps
Mobile app sidebar is now going to replace the main menu functionality. It also comes up with several design options to select the best choice for your app. However, there is room for improvements and avoid mistakes in optimization process for your app side navigation design.


Mobile applications always suffering from screen related constraints and app designers are striving for optimal utilization of screen real estate. Therefore, app main navigation menu is squeezing and remaining up to a few buttons. However, need for full navigation menu remains unsatisfied in the case of the tiny main navigation menu, and scope for secondary navigation scheme arises to provide a complete vehicle that brings users to their intended screens/goals. In due course, App UI and User interface designers look for secondary navigation schemes like sidebars used in most of the website designs, mainly WordPress websites. Unfortunately, sidebar navigation seems plausible in tablets like a bit big screens, but non-applicable in tiny smartphone screens. Expert and creative app designers and developers have devised sidebar into an off-canvas menu. The entire menu remains hidden from the frontend screen and representing an icon only on GUI of the app screen. On clicking, sidebar/off-canvas navigation icon expands and bring menu buttons and content forth on user interface and allows actions & interactions for users. In the app developer community, sidebar navigation scheme that works off the canvas, and often termed as Hamburger Menu or Navigation Drawer in Material Design.

Types and Example of Sidebar Navigation in App

Advantages of Sidebar Navigation Scheme in Mobile App Design

It has many pros and some cons, but sidebar navigation scheme is gaining momentum thanks to following apparent advantages.
  • App designer can use vertical space of mobile screens optimally because most of the users in most cases use portrait mode of app orientation against landscape mode.
  • It can cover a number of navigation options compared to tiny main navigation bar situated either on the top or bottom of the app Even users can scroll it further to access hidden buttons or content.
  • It can provide clear and clutter free design if the designer is smart and experienced enough. The most significant advantage in app design is off the canvas option that shifts the sidebar menu into out of screen/hidden mode and leaves rest of screen design free for appearance.
  • Off-canvas sidebar navigation scheme works in contexts of app screen present at that moment and changing menu accordingly in real-time. Thus, contextual navigation scheme provides you more room to accommodate extra navigation options and content that appears only in its right contexts.

Pro-Tips to Improve Sidebar Navigation of Your App Design

Mobile app developers can enhance the user experiences of sidebar navigation by following useful tips:
  • By prioritizing the navigation options, you can get the immediate attention of users for highly important content/options.
  • Sometime hiding won’t work in favor of users, and intimidating UX of the app so prefer always show option and make sidebar visible.
  • Select the appropriate sidebar navigation type form the given or prevailing options and customize it.
  • Fix your goals while designing app sidebar and allocate one goal per item listed in the sidebar. It will save users from overwhelming with too many goals per item.

Mistakes to Avoid for Optimized Sidebar Navigation in Mobile Apps

Some apps are complex and require several options in the sidebar thanks to too many categories or sections in information architecture of the app. Therefore, optimization of the sidebar or off-canvas menu is essential. Many app developers committing some common mistakes in due course and lost the value of sidebar at all in-app conversion. Those mistakes are:

Adding Too Many Options in Sidebar Menu of Apps:

App developers define options when planning the app architecture, and complex nature of apps have infinitive options or “Option-Creep” in other words. Therefore, they need to control a number of options to show in a sidebar at a time. The fix for the issue is the use of contextual sidebar menu that changes according to app screen or app section during the app journey of a user and displays only relevant options in the sidebar.

Uncluttered Sidebar Navigation of Apps:

When too many options come to cover in a side menu of the app, the app designers try to accommodate more options within constrained space of sidebar interface. It makes app side navigation designed cluttered, and it becomes more cluttered when designers decide to place ads or banners in it earn in-app ads revenue or marketing app offerings at first place. The fix is to give enough space to each option and follow the rules of touch gestures that demand space for thumb touch too. For visual differentiation, you can use borders by using lines of embossing the specified area as well as use headings of options.

Un-Categorized Options in Sidebar Menu of Apps:

If you have too many options in a sidebar and it becomes a scrollable interface/module, it becomes clumsy to scroll and find random options. The fix is that you must fragment the content of navigation menu. The best way is to fragment them by categories or sections and give block-type pattern or arrangements.

Filling Sidebar of App with In-app Ads and Marketing Banners:

At marketing and app monetization point of view, the sidebar provides awesome opportunities if ads or banners have placed in between or bottom of option/content list. Sometimes app owners/entrepreneurs tempt to fill up a sidebar with ads and banners in a haphazard manner. You must logically group the ads or banners and display in safe spaces where chances of destroying user experiences are low. Displaying contextual ads or banners make a great sense in ads conversion too.


We have seen the different types of sidebar design used in-app secondary menu design. Now, we know the distinct advantages of sidebar menu against all other app navigation schemes used in present app designing. Moreover, we come to know some useful tips to enhance the navigation experiences using app sidebar menu and some of the things, which need to avoid in order to create a better design and experiences. This knowledge is not enough to select or create a better option for your app sidebar design. It needs the help of experienced app designers who are accustomed to all types of sidebar navigation design and implemented successfully. It is the fortunate thing that SysBunny has an impeccable team of app designers who have achieved desired success in sidebar navigation design for an app developed on different platforms including iOS and Android. Would you like to try out the team for your app development and app design? Let’s begin a thread of conversation.

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