December 01, 2012
At first glance, these two navigation patterns seem very similar, but there are a few points that give table views* a huge leg up. When dealing with a multi-tiered hierarchy or a variable amount of navigation items – such as text messages, emails, folksonomic categories, folders, files, etc. – table views can be a great solution. Lists are generally easier to scan than tiles, and vertical scrolling is an easy interaction for touchscreen mobile devices.
One advantage that the left nav flyout pattern generally has over table views is the swipe-to-reveal gesture shortcut. For table views, this gesture could be used as a shortcut for the back button – much like Loren Brichter's original Twitter for iPad – and navigation is probably a more common action than deleting items with the swipe-to-delete gesture.
Some may argue that the modal nature of left nav flyouts is well-suited for use as filtering controls for large collections. But, to use the Apple Store app as an example again, table views can be a very efficient way to filter through large collections of information.
If your product has a complex IA that can't neatly fit into a tab bar, consider the advantages that table views can provide before jumping on the left nav flyout bandwagon.
*Note: For lack of a better term, table views refers to the one-window drilldown pattern that combines lists and navigation bars and is widely used in iOS.