iPhone navigation design and usability

What's the best way to design the usability of an iPhone app?

As iPhone applications have become more and more popular, their have been a few different navigation designs implemented. The idea is to make your application as easy, intuitive, and effortless for your users. Allow them to access the informaiton they're looking for as quickly as possible. The benefit of doing so? More people LOVE your app! And who doesn't enjoy being loved? When people love your app, they tell their friends and spread the word about your awesome app.

In this blog I'm going to explore 2 popular iPhone application designs and the pro and cons of each. The first is the standard standard Apple design and second, the Facebook inspired "Tiled icon" design.

Standard Apple Design


The "standard apple design" is marked by a bottom icon navigation, lists, and detail pages.

The bottom navigation consits of links to different sections or functionality of the applicaiton. This is exmplified by the phone application as seen to the right, but it's the same with the iTunes application and App Store applicaiton. There is a bottom navigation that allows you to get to your "Favorites" "Recent calls" "Contacts" "Keypad" and "Voicemail." For insatnce when you click on "Favorites" you're provided your list of favorites, where you can A) call the contact or B) click the arrow to get more information. Let's focus on the arrow for more info as it is more generally applicable to most applicaitons.


When you click on a list item you're taken to, in this case a details page, Where you can get more information and take action (text, share contact, and add to favorites). This is seen in the image to the left... Details pages could be information about a local restaurant, their menu, hours, location, phone number etc. 

Pro's: it's standard (many other applications use the same layout). It's easy to get to the information you need.

Con's: There's a limited number of "Main sections" you can include in the sub navigation. This can limit what you can include in the application.

Considerations: Make sure the information is grouped correctly and organized correctly. The last thing users want to do is go down a path only to realize that's not where the information they want is at.


Facebook Inspired "Tiled icon" Design


There's a new iPhone application design on the web. This new design style was first indroduced by Facebook (to me anyways there may have been others first). I have named this style the "Tiled icon" design. The navigation elements in this case are icons that are aranged in tiles or grids as seen by the facebook application to the right. The icons even give updates to activity in each section. The nice thing about this design is that it helps visually communicate what you can do with the application, by use of the icons. In addition the layout utilizes the iPhone home page multi page layout design whereby you can flick or swipe the screen left or right for additional pages with more icons to other sections of the app, in this case the facebook applications or friends profiles you go to often.


Finally let's look at the "Tiled Icon's" detail page and see how the navigation is handled. As you can see from the image to the right, which is the landing page when clicking the "Profile" icon on the previous page (image). The navigation on the facebook design then goes to a variation of the bottom navigation, in this case going with 3 buttons to more information and details page.


Pro's: Allow's you to add many main sections for users to navigate to. The icons help visually convey what that section of the application is (... what functionality or information you should expect). It allows you to get a dashboard look at the application, what's going on in that section.

Con's: It's new, this is a new layout and will require the user to learn the new interface, however small the learning curve, it still requires they learn.

Considerations: Make sure it makes sense. I like this layout, but I also like pushing the envelope, when you chose your applications navigation and design you'll need to consider your user first



Both layouts serve a function and have pro's and cons. Both layouts use an icon in one form or another. The key is to make sure whatever layout you chose, it makes sense for your users. They just want to access the information they want to access as quickly as possible. This can mean having the opening page of the application be the last opened page by the user... Or maybe it's your business model to feature items, have your featured items page be the opening page... You definitely have to balance your users needs and your objectives for the applicaiton but remember if your users don't like it or don't find it useful they won't use your app and probably talk crap .


What do you Think? What layout designs have you seen, what do you like, what do you dislike? I'll open up the conversation and duke it out over the perfect app design.


At half-past eight the door opened, the policeman appeared, and, requesting them to follow him, led the way to an adjoining hall. It was evidently a court-room, and a crowd of Europeans and natives already occupied the rear of the apartment.

At half-past eight the door opened, the policeman appeared, and, requesting them to follow him, led the way to an adjoining hall. It was evidently a court-room, and a crowd of Europeans. At half-past eight the door opened, the policeman appeared, and, requesting them to follow him, led the way to an adjoining hall. It was evidently a court-room, and a crowd.

The donations increased due to the impactful user journey.

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