How To Organize Your Apps

Let’s face it, we have all been there, browsing through the oh-so-many incredible apps out there. Sooner or later, we find ourselves on a downloading frenzy; from cooking apps, fashion and games to productivity and news apps, once we start downloading, our phones default to storing these apps on the home screen, and this is where the problem begins. As an app enthusiast — and in a very cautious attempt to avoid app hoarding — I needed to find a way to control the potential clutter that can be caused by downloading and using so many apps. This also made me wonder: How are iOS users handling this mess? Do they even realize that app-chaos is a problem? What is the best way to organize your apps?

Warning: This might get nerdy.

From my experience with Product Design, I thought that the best way to go in order to gather more data was qualitative research. I decided to go out there and talk to users. I figured that 10 iOS power users should be enough to help me formulate an idea around how to answer these questions. Several people were reluctant to share their screens with me, others were more than happy to. Luckily, I found more of the latter. I looked at their screens, we talked about their favorite apps, I picked up some new cool ones along the way, we discussed what’s going on in their lives and I observed how that was reflected in their app usage. Here are my findings:

The majority of the screens I saw looked like this (70% to be precise), which indicates that most users don’t realize that app-hoarding, or app messiness, is a real problem.

70% of the iOS screens I saw looked like this

This user, for example, is a music composer. The blend of the Sri Yantra colors and the apps made my brain hurt, although he seemed completely at peace with it. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed that apps like iBooks, Wallet, health, the Weather app, and so on are on the home screen, even though they are rarely used and that they can actually be removed now with iOS10. This guy has a flashlight app that he dragged with him from his iPhone 4 days. Plus, an Israeli Railway app, even though he hasn’t been there in a over a year! But, strangely enough, this user has organized all his music apps in one neat folder so he can easily access them.

Other users appear to have a more systematic way of organizing their apps. See this example:

This user is an XML Developer/Database Analyst. He organizes his apps by verb-based categories and meticulously places them in folders that he cleans up and ‘audits’ once a year. This user group comprised of only 30% of the users. Which means that there are at least 30% of the iOS user population will appreciate this research.

“I don’t mind having apps that I don’t use on the phone. About once a year, I audit all the apps on my phone and clean up. I do that by wiping my phone and starting over.”

Now that we know that most users (70%) do not think that app chaos is a problem, and that only 30% actually apply a system or approach to organizing their apps. In the spirit of minimizing cognitive load and maximizing usability, I recommend organizing apps by color. Take a look at the screenshots from my phone below.

I found that this is the most effective way to organize apps because the human brain processes images and color much quicker than category or verb based organization. It is a much easier way to navigate and find what you are looking for, and it is also beautiful. In addition to organizing apps by color, I have also decided to limit one page per color, which means that I have to delete an app in order for a new one to take it’s place if the page is full, this helps me combat app-hoarding.

Do you think that organizing your apps by color is the most effective approach? How do you organize your apps? Has iOS10 app hiding feature helped you give this topic a second thought? Drop me a note on twitter @sunbird3000 or in the comments below.

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I just found out my article was translated to Arabic, see it here: