A million menu items

Navbars or menus are funny. On the one hand, they’re the source of confusion for our users. On the other hand, they’re what empowers our users as they use the applications we are creating. Hence, there seems to be a tradeoff between power and simplicity when it comes to creating navigation for our apps. How would you feel if I told you that I had “invented” a way to allow you to create a million menu items, without significantly adding to your app’s complexity?

First things first, when you open your File menu, and you see the text “Load”. For you this might seem easily understood. However, for a computer-illiterate, it might as well have spelled out “Warpdrive”. And what’s a “File” anyway? How about “Open a document”. Obviously such a wording is better. However, historically this have been impossible to use, simply since it would end up creating “walls of text” for our users, as they navigate the systems we create.

The screenshot for this blog, suggests a solution for the above dilemma. It will never show your users more than 5 menu items, it features a search interface, and it allows you to use the same menu in all of your apps. First of all, this implies that you don’t have to teach your users a different set of menu items, for all of your apps. Hence, as they have learned how to use one menu, they have learned how to use them all. Secondly, it allows you to have literally a million menu items, without cluttering your UX with “walls of text”. It does this, by showing the user only his 5 most recently used menu items. Implying the user has access to all of his million menu items, but will never see more than 5 items, and the 5 items he will see, are the 5 items that was most recently used. Seriously, do I really need to explain the advantage of this …?

As an additional bonus, the user can choose to turn on speech recognition, allowing him to choose menu items, by literally speaking to his computer. Since there are never more than 5 items, you can display what the menu item does, with a complete phrase, and not only a single word, such as “Load”.

This happens to much more closely resemble the way our minds work, and creates an intuitive understanding of how to interact with your apps’ menu items. The above screenshot is an actual working module for Phosphorus Five, referred to as its Magic Menu. It allows you to create a single entry point UI, allowing you to control any aspect, of all your Phosphorus Five applications, seamlessly integrating your apps together, such that they become a uniform whole.

Yet again, seriously, do I really need to explain this …?

For the record, the Magic Menu is still in BETA, but will become an integrated parts of the next Phosphorus Five release. If you wish to play around with it today though, feel free to fork the GitHub repository, which you can find here

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