The latest build of Google Plus for Android was rolled out a few days ago. While there are many UI updates, one of the changes is significant. The dashboard design pattern, it seems, has been deprecated.
When you login into the current build of Google plus you land on the “What’s Hot” view. This view is housed within the stream section of the app. To switch to another section of the app, say, circles, you must tap on the up button of the action bar, which reveals a menu. The menu enters the screen from left hand side and presents a navigation list.
Take a look:
This fly out navigation menu is a pattern that is used quite often for iOS social apps. For example, Path, Pinterest and Twitter’s iPad app all leverage this pattern. Facebook also uses this pattern for their mobile website and, iOS & Android apps. The fact that Google+ is now using this pattern means the fly out navigation menu will be viewed, initially, as a social app interaction pattern on mobile.
It would be great to see this pattern incorporated into UI guidelines. Doing so would help develop a consistent experience approach across apps, which would be good for users. As for current social apps for Android, we’ll see how soon this pattern will be incorporated. Given Android’s rendering philosophy, the development effort required to build this custom component may delay roll out of the fly out menu, but we’ll see.
We’ll also see what the fate of the dashboard will be. Take a look at the Dashboard that is no longer being used:
From a hierarchy perspective, I’m a fan of the dashboard. The functional decomposition the dashboard pattern encourages designers to use is a neat way to silo and optimize tasks. The dashboard replicates the launcher environment, which establishes a level of consistency with the mobile operating system. This view gives one a high level snapshot of the main features/sections of an app. It works well, but maybe not in all cases.
In a social networking context, optimizing tasks may not be the top priority. If you’re trying to push timely content, for example, the dashboard it is an extra and excessive. So, it makes sense to drop the dashboard pattern from social apps. I hope it remains a viable option for utility apps though.