How to … create an overflow menu

Navigation patterns are the key to make the most out of the precious screen space on a mobile device. Many different navigation paths can be used and not long ago we had a look at the 7 commonly used patterns and typical use cases. You can quickly create these navigation patterns with Pidoco. Today, we’ll take a look at the overflow menu.

The overflow menu is best used to stow away a large number of additional options or menu entries that are not often used but still necessary. For the navigation in mobile apps with very little space that’s a good way to keep the screen clear. Usually, this navigation pattern is found in a navigation bar at the top of the screen and is connected to a hamburger menu. To open the menu, just tap on the icon.

And here’s how it goes …


1. The project setup

To visualize that navigation pattern, I created a mobile app that contains a navigation bar at the top of the screen which includes an overflow menu. The app offers different movie genres you can access via the start page with a tap on the colored rectangle. Additionally, you can select the movie genres on any screen via an overflow menu. If you’re curious, here’s a preview of my finished project called “Watch it!”.

1.1. Creating the start page

To build the app, we need multiple layers and pages. For my project I added 1 page that serves as the start page. With a click on “+ New layer”, I created a layer that contains the overview of the available movie genres. Here I added differently colored rectangles and icons representing one movie genre and activated the layer (Here called: “Watch it! – content”). You can link these elements later after you created the overflow menu. It’ll work the same way.

Creating the start page of the mobile app


1.2. Creating the navigation bar

Having built the start page, we continue with our navigation bar. To do so, we create a new layer. The navigation bar will be located at the top of each page and contains the name of the app and the icon which is connected to the overflow menu. Here I used the icon with three lines and added it to the left.

Building the elements of the navigation bar including the icons for the overflow menu.


2. The overflow menu
2.1. Building the basic structure

In total 6 different movie genres are available and a tap on the icon in the overflow menu directs to the respective content. That’s why we need one layer for each category. So we click on “+ New Layer” again, add stencils and activate the layer. Here I added some text and an image placeholder as well as a red triangle to make it look like a playable video.

Adding content to the layer

Hint: Save time by multiplying that layer and only change details like the headline etc. for each layer. Just go to the Project view and select “Clone element” from the context menu.


2.2. Creating the overflow menu

To build our overflow menu, we create a new layer by hitting the “+ New layer” button in the layers panel and it opens where we add the content of the menu. Here: I added the same 6 icons representing each movie genre.

Adding an icon for each movie genre to the overflow menu.


2.3. Adding interactions

Having built all the layers, we go on adding interactions and start with the first entry of the overflow menu. A tap on an icon displays the respective content of the selected movie genre. So we use the following interaction pairing: When the user clicks/taps then show page and we select our start page as it serves as our app basis. Then we add another reaction and use change layer visibility, select the layer to be displayed (Here I started with the first entry “Action”.) and set the visibility to “show”. Since we can jump between the entries of the overflow menu, all the other layers that contain a different movie genre as well as the layer showing the overview (here: “Watch it! – content”) and the overflow menu itself need to be invisible. That’s why we add more reactions and use “change layer visibility” for each one of them and set the visibility to “Hide”.

Making the overflow menu interactive using multiple reactions.

Hint: Open the interactions panel in the right sidebar, highlight all elements of your overflow menu, and then click on “Apply these interactions to the selection”. Then you only have to change the visibility of the layer that is associated with each menu entry.

Copying the same interactions to multiple elements.

Copying the same interactions to multiple elements.

There’s also the option to close the overflow menu without selecting a movie genre. To realize that we add an action area to the right of the overflow menu and span it across the remaining screen width. Then, we add the user action “clicks/taps” and the system reaction “change layer visibility”, select the layer that contains the overflow menu and set the visibility to “Hide”.

Making the overflow menu disappear without a selection.


2.4. Connecting the overflow menu with the navigation bar

Finally, we connect the overflow menu with the hamburger icon of the navigation bar which is displayed at the top of each screen. A tap on the icon makes the menu appear or disappear. That’s why we open the interaction dialog for that icon, select a tap action, use “change layer visibility” and select the layer that contains the overflow menu. But this time we set the visibility to “Toggle” so it will be shown or hidden with only one tap.

Access and leave the overflow menu with only one tap.


3. Simulation

Voilà! To test your overflow menu, just open the Pidoco app on your mobile device (available via Google Play or the App Store) and start the simulation of your project by selecting it from the project list.


That’s it! You just finished the your mobile app that includes an overflow menu.

Do you need help? Then do not hesitate and drop us a line via or Facebook and Twitter.


Happy Prototyping!

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