Issues with the iOS9 Back-to-App button

When you combine users that have a ton of apps on their phones with a planning or research-based task, the need for easy app switching is a valid feature. Sadly for Apple this has caused a bit of a headache. Android phones have the physical button which is well know to users for reversing or undoing the previous action.

Problem #1:

Unlike the Android button function, Apples Back-to-App button only allows users to go back to the previous app, and this only under certain circumstances. This creates a problem for the users memory, since the Back-to-app button only takes users back to a previous app if the current app has been launched by that previous app. Since users will not understand why the feature appears only sometimes, the likely outcome is the users avoidance or unreliance on the UI feature. Another contrast to the Android button, is that the Apple button will only take a user up one level, therefore it’s use case or relevance is limited.

Problem #2:

Screen real estate. The button is tiny and feels like it’s just been dumped with no elegance whatsoever. It’s positioning also is bizarre when you consider the very real conflict with the in-app back button. This is further complicated when the in-app back button is labelled back, all of a sudden you are left wondering ‘where does back take me’.

This update will require app designers to rethink (read) re-label their back buttons.

Of course this is paving the way for ever more prevalent deep-linking between apps, a journey which itself will be interesting to see play out. Will brands will prefer to keep users within their own ecosystem and send users to responsive pages.

While us UXers can be a picky bunch it is important to note the positives of this new feature, in certain situations this button saves a user time. Time as we all know is worth more than gold in the digital age.

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