Android UX: Should the "Up" button die???

Anyone who has the new YouTube app would know that it is an awesome update. The design is very nice with a multi-tasking ability to watch and search at the same time. However I want to talk about something else they have included and something that seems to be disappearing. This is the new Hamburger slide out menu and the "Up" button navigation.

As you can see from the picture above, the top left hand corner has three lines next to the new YouTube icon (Hamburger) and once pressed or swiped from the left reveals the navigation drawer. This is great as it feels right to have this icon and is now consistency with other Google's Android apps. But when you use the YouTube app you will notice that there isn't much references to the "Up" button at all within the application and even the "Up" button is missing when watching the videos. Is Google slowly moving away from it?

The "Up" button I have always thought was misleading as the arrow is pointing to the left, which for an average user means back as we are educated at a young age that things that point to the left goes back. In my opinion this button should just die and this is why.

You can't have the slide out menu and the "Up" button together

This is most evident on the Google Plus app. Try the following, open the Google Plus application, click on the hamburger icon or swipe left and hit communities. Go into any communities you have. Once in the communities notice the "Up" button is present. But what if you want to go to your profile? What you have to do is hit the "Up" button or "Back" button to get back to the communities, swipe to left and hit your picture. The fact you cannot have the slide out navigation is annoying and in this case the "Up" and "Back" button serves the same functionality.

Some people may argue that the "Up" button should go back to parent Activity, in this case the communities front screen, but then wait, if I am in the communities front screen should I not have an "Up" button to get to the main Google Plus Stream as technically that is the parent Activity as that is the MainActivity on launch? Again you might argue that this is part of the top level view, however there can only be one Start page and therefore you should have the ability to go up to the parent.

Consistency of the "Up" Button

The "Up" button should be consistent as it should always point to its parent in the hierarchy, or it should do in my opinion. Lets take an example when you have an notification of an application update in the Google Play Store, and once received the user clicks on the notification to go inside.

Now let's look at the same screen but this time navigated through the Google Play Store app instead of from the navigation draw.

Now I have not edited the photo, you can try it yourself but notice that the first screenshot has no "Up" button but the second one does? Why is that? Surely if I go to the Play Store app via the notification shade I should also have the ability to go through the app via the "Up" button... In this case the "Up" button and the "Back" button serves the same purpose and the "Up" button is redundant.


The "Back" button is not perfect in any sense as there are inconsistency in that as well, most notably when you launch an application via another application, but having both the "Up" and "Back" button confuses in my opinion the end user. I wonder how much the up button is used. I hardly use it. I think the "Up" button is killed and that a more defined definition of the "Back" button is created.


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