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A known visual designer tweeted a while ago that he finally finalized: The rounded white rectangle on the home button is actually an icon representing app! Unlike webOS, where apps have this “stack” design, the responsibility of organizing navigation path is on the app’s. Even in the case of the built-in navigation bar, having the OS to force pop all the views until the root view is probably a bad idea—the side effects can be undesirable, and it’s simply not in the contract of the API that says “the system will pop you out”.
Interestingly, the reason why you were able to see the beginning of the app in pre-background days might be a design “flaw” of many apps: They didn’t adhere to Apple’s guideline that apps should remember their states, so when user comes back, they can go back to where they were. Now the background feature gives the apps that for free.
A way to mitigate the problem is perhaps to enhance to home button a bit, like an option in the Settings, so that user can choose the behavior of the home button. Then a notification can be sent to the app, if it can handle, it pops it navigation stack (or does whatever it needs) to bring the user to the beginning. One more home, and you’re back to Springboard. Although how many apps (and Apple) would want to do that is another question…
There are some things that become so common to do that it’s easy to forget why there’s a problem to begin with. The design firm OXO is a good example of developers of disruptive design: they are the ones that made the measuring cup that allows you to see the quantity of what you’re measuring straight from the cup itself. Though I don’t want to suggest anything as innovative as such, it occurred to me that there is a slight problem with the iPhone’s home button – this is despite the fact that I’ve been a user of the iPhone for well over a year now.
In striving for minimalism Apple overloaded the home button with a variety of functions, the main one of which is to return the user back to the home screen. The other behaviors include:
The inherent problem is with the default behavior of “bringing you back to the home screen”. My brain doesn’t process the button as such, but instead more along the lines of “get me back to the main thing”. The problem is that when I’m listening to music, or using an app, that “main thing” is not the “home screen” but the so-called “beginning” of the app. I expect to see the main screen of the app when I press the button, and when it exits out of the app I’m frustrated. I’m even more doubly frustrated when I open the app again and realize I’m still at the same point (better still back in the days when the phone didn’t have backgrounding, as restarting the app would bring me back to the home screen).
Does anyone feel this way about the home button? I’d be curious to hear your feedback.