Launch Images in iOS–UX

August 17, 2012

When developing an iOS app, you can specify a set of “launch images” within Xcode. Apple’s iOS Human Interface document informs the developer that these are required for every app, although this must be referring to the “app store polish” because for building and running the app, there is no technical requirement for having these images – apps run just fine without them. The biggest problem I have with the launch images, or rather, Apple’s design of them is this, from the guidelines:

Avoid using your launch image as an opportunity to provide: Because users are likely to switch among applications frequently, you should make every effort to cut launch time to a minimum, and you should design a launch image that downplays the experience rather than drawing attention to it. Generally, design a launch image that is identical to the first screen of the application.

I understand the rationale is to eliminate the feel of “loading” and make everything look and feel faster, but static-images identical to UI is a problem. It causes a bad experience when the launch image looks too much like the first screen of the application. I have two particular examples for why this creates an issue: the built in iPhone calculator, and Safari.

The iOS calculator’s launch image is essentially just a screenshot of the calculator (although there is a slight color difference between the calculator “screen” color in the image from the actual UI) – which invariably causes me to start punching numbers into the calculator on an image because it looks and feels like the real UI.

Safari’s launch image includes the header and footer. In the header are the address and search boxes. Because these look and feel like the real app, I almost always tap on them to try to focus, but in reality, I’m attempting to focus by tapping on an image. This doesn’t make it feel like it loaded any faster just because it looks like safari is up and running, it makes it feel slower because it’s not responding to my taps.

Personally, the completely blank screen you get if you leave the launch images out of the app, because it lets me know it’s loading, but without excess elaborate splash screens.