In an effort to create a simpler, more intuitive user experience for its Android platform, Google is advising developers to do away with the menu button moving forward. As it stands, on Android 2.3 and older devices, a separate hardware navigation button is used to activate additional functions and hidden features inside an app. While it may seem like an intuitive move, novice users of the platform may not think to look there to find features.
Newer Android 3.x and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich devices did away with the hardware button in favor of on-screen soft keys. On Ice Cream Sandwich, the menu button has been replaced entirely with an action overflow on-screen key, which is designated by 3 vertical dots. According to Google still, these buttons do not ‘provide for an ideal user experience.’
Instead, on Google’s Android Developers blog, the Android OS-maker advises software developers to create apps with a friendlier action bar, which lays out commands and useful features for all to see. The move would eliminate placing the burden on the end-user to try to understand where the commands are and the user can quickly and visually scan the app when it launches to know what actions are available to them.
Will you miss the menu button? Removal of the menu button would be the second death of hardware navigation keys. The first one, which is more U.S.-centric as international devices often lacked this button, is the search button. On Ice Cream Sandwich, Google had removed the search button and instead made a static search bar that appeared on all of the home screens on Android. I personally liked having the convenience of a search key as I can quickly launch Google Voice Actions, which allowed me to command my Android smartphone using my voice.