A few years ago, Mubaloo waged war on the use of Splash Screens for iOS apps. The key reasons for our disdain of them were:

  • Many companies see splash screens as a way to push their branding when a user opens an app
  • Splash screens mean that users have to wait longer to get into what they need to do
  • Users will have already chosen the app to open, they will have seen branding and they will likely see branding within the app
  • iOS Human Interface Guidelines indicate that companies should display a blank version of the application to load the rest of the app

With the iPhone 6S, Apple has introduced 3D Touch, a new hardware and software feature that helps users launch into the part of the app they want to access. For example, a 3D Touch on the Maps app will bring up a menu on the home screen where a user can get directions home, mark their location, send their location or search nearby.

The cumulative effect of using 3D Touch cuts down the number of steps and taps it takes to use apps. 3D Touch will highlight how bad splash screens are for the user experience, as they will significantly slow down how long it takes for users to launch into what they want.

As a result, app developers need to take a stand against requests to include splash screens in apps. Instead, developers should, according to Apple, use a launch image that’s identical to the first screen of the app, excluding any text or UI elements that might change.

As Apple says: ‘If you think that following these guidelines will result in a plain, boring launch image, you’re right. Remember, the launch image doesn’t provide you with an opportunity for artistic expression. It’s solely intended to enhance the user’s perception of your app as quick to launch and immediately ready for use. For example, Settings and Weather each supply a launch image that is little more than a background image.’

Splash screens and intro animations became popular when Flash websites were all the rage. Today though, Flash is a dying format, as are splash screens.

Whilst companies may argue that 3D Touch is only for the iPhone 6S and therefore not important enough to get rid of splash screens for, consider that Apple sold 225 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices. Not only is Apple expected to sell an equal, or greater amount of the 6S range, but other changes to iOS 9 will also show up apps that use splash screens.

Proactive search, which enables users to search content within apps, is designed to help users launch into apps (on all devices going back to the iPhone 4S) and users will expect to launch into what they are looking for. Splash screens will only slow down the experience even further.

Apple say they will use the speed at which your app shows the user relevant content when they tap on a search result to determine the ranking of results. For example, search results for apps that don’t take the user straight to the relevant content quickly will be ranked lower than those who do. With search, it’s absolutely crucial you don’t show any kind of splash screen when navigating from search results.

Even Twitter’s splash screen should be a target of the move away from using this archaic user interface. Some developers and companies, such as IMDB, LinkedIn, Google Maps and others try to minimise the impact of splash screen images, with load times of 2-3 seconds, whilst other apps can take upwards of 15 seconds.

If users have taken the action to actually download an app, they will have done so because they understand who the app is by and why downloading it will help them. Whether they then open the app by searching for it by name, keyword or looking through their apps to find it, they will know that is the app they need to open and why they need to open it. So there is no added benefit of displaying a Splash Screen, it can only take away from the experience for the user.

Apple has introduced a number of new ways to ensure that regularly used apps are able to preload content and check for updates, that mean that apps can load much quicker with pre-populated content. Rather than focusing on a splash screen, companies should embrace these development tools to provide users with a seamless user experience.

3D Touch will introduce a new paradigm for developers. It may be that in the case of apps such as IMBD, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google Maps, that 3D Touch will bypass the current splash screen, only showing it if users launch the app normally. Here at Mubaloo, we will continue to recommend that clients avoid using splash screens and instead follow best practice, trusting that users will know which app they are launching into.

For more information about Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines relating to Splash Screens or launch images, click here.

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