Product Design

Coming Soon to iOS: What Designers Should Know

In June, Apple introduced the world to iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, which I accidentally refer to as “El Camino” on the reg. Fortunately, as designers, there aren’t many visual changes we’ll need to be aware of. There are a few UX challenges we’ll be facing though, as well as some new features we should keep in mind when we are determining an app’s functionality.

blog-post-image el-camino MH-510x364@2x

Deep Linking

The capability for adding deep-linking support has been around for some time now. Essentially, deep linking gives other apps and websites the ability to launch your app to a particular view. In iOS 9, Apple is extending support for deep linking and integrating it into the operating system, search and Siri. If your app supports deep linking, the content can be indexed and served up to users when they search for relevant content. Google has also hopped onto this bandwagon and has enabled deep-linking support and indexing to their search results.

As UX designers, we need to think about how we present content when a user accesses an app from an external source, and particularly, how we’re going to design around the new status bar back button on iPhone.

Apple’s New Back Button

Apple bounced over this topic in their keynote, quickly showing an example and moving on, but it was very surprising to see. When an app is launched from an external source (e.g. Siri, search, another app or website), a tiny little back button with an arrow appears in the status bar where the carrier information is usually presented.

Some things we’ll need to keep in mind:

  1. Tap Radius

The radius around the new back button is very small, and it’s important that you keep this in mind. It might determine what you can safely place in the navigation bar, as users with large fingers or those experiencing hand/eye coordination issues, tremors, etc. might accidentally tap it.

  1. Back Buttons

Most likely, this won’t be a problem, but in some cases views are designed/coded to include back buttons in the top left. If a view is accessed from another app, placing a back button below another back button could confuse some users.


The iPad has a new feature that users have been begging for…multitasking. When a user is in an app, they can now swipe over and launch a second one in a pane adjacent to their current window. The multitasking windows are resizable, and the user can reposition the divider between the apps to make one larger. As designers and developers, this means all of our apps need to be fully responsive and take advantage of size classes. The app should gracefully scale between a smaller iPhone 4s sized screen to an iPad landscape screen. Designing for these changes in size and layout can be challenging, but there is definite value in allowing your users to take advantage of iOS 9’s latest feature. Oh, and we’re still going to need to support those pesky little iPhone 4s screens!  

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