Side menus — or navigation drawers or hamburger menus, whatever you want to call them — are a burr in the saddle of Android Q’s gesture navigation system. Swiping in from either side of the screen with gestures enabled takes the user back one layer, a behavior obviously at odds with menus meant to be accessed by the same action. The next beta update will address that discordance, though, according to Googler Chris Banes.
It was announced at droidcon Berlin that from Q Beta 5 forward, with gestures enabled, pressing and holding at the edge of the screen will “peek” the drawer menu, and pulling in will proceed to open it. That peeking behavior is present on older Android versions and even on Q when gesture navigation is turned off, but with gestures on, it currently triggers the back arrow animation.
🚧 The drawer behavior is changing. Users will be able to open the drawer by peeking the drawer, and then swiping. Big benefit is that this works with existing apps with “old” DrawerLayout versions. pic.twitter.com/WVyOzQFzHO
— Chris Banes (@chrisbanes) July 2, 2019
Under Q Beta 4’s gesture navigation, you can access navigation drawers by swiping in from the edge of the screen at an angle, but that action is so clunky it feels like it might be a bug rather than an intentional UI decision. Lately, many Android apps have been eschewing side menus entirely in favor of a row of navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen, but the transition has been slow, with some apps even using both navigation paradigms (looking at you, Google Photos). This change is system-wide and doesn’t require any changes by developers, so the benefits will be felt immediately by beta users.
Android Q Beta 5 is scheduled to land sometime this quarter, so look forward to improved gesture navigation coming soon.
The new “peek” feature for gestures is present in Android Q Beta 5. Holding your finger just on/over the edge with gestures enabled has the side navigation drawer literally “peek” out at you in Beta 5:
It generally works (sometimes there’s still a bit of odd behavior with the back gesture interfering), but it isn’t entirely consistent given how narrow the trigger area seems to be. Every app I could think to tested supported it, which makes sense given Google said that it should work with all apps that use any version of DrawerLayout, the recommended method for these sliding navigation menus.
Gesture navigation no longer interferes with basic app functionality, a significant step in its progress.