Quick Return UI design pattern (named by Roman Nurik on G+) is a screen real estate saving design pattern that still allows users to access important off screen controls by easily moving them back to the screen.
This design pattern has been in use in the Google Now app from its launch as well as on various other apps mostly on other platfoms.
If you don't have access to the Google Now app check out the screenshots below. The Google Search box is initially on the top part of the screen but it scrolls out of the screen with the UI. No matter how far the users scrolls down the search box always reappears when user starts to scroll up.
The latest Google+ app update brought the same design pattern to the G+ app and into a very central role. The new post controls were moved out from the action bar to a quick return container.
When to use this design pattern?Screen real estate is very valuable on small screens. Apps should dedicate as much as possible of it to the actual content instead of controls. Often an app has much more controls, even frequently used controls, that can be placed on the action bar. Adding a second permanent action bar will use much more screen space.
I'm not saying that gmail app should use the quick return pattern. I'm only using gmail as example of space used by controls.
Of course, the quick return pattern only works with a scrolling container like a list or a website. In fact, I would very much like to see this approach being adopted by the Google Chrome browser for Android with the URL bar.
Quick Return on large screensGoogle+ app is an interesting example of this design pattern as the app adapts very nicely to multiple screen sizes. The app also changes scroll direction when on landscape mode.
Google+ landscape on Galaxy Nexus
What is striking to me on when using the quick return in Google+ in landscape mode is that it seems to be wasting space instead of saving it. Wouldn't the three actions now fit to the action bar instead?
On Nexus 7
The same thing is apparent on a larger screen like the Nexus 7.
On a 10" tablet
On a 10" tablet screen the quick return really starts to feel cumbersome and somewhat awkward looking.