The Laziness of the Home Tab
If you use apps and websites like I do, you’ve probably seen a “Home” tab on many them. It’s usually meant to tell the user that it’s the first screen in a number of screens. It’s where you start your navigational journey.
I’ve been thinking about the name “Home”. It’s not really an intuitive name for the first screen on your tab. It doesn’t contain any meaning that’s relevant to the screen’s function. It’s a lazy title slapped to the screen that’s meant to be the screen that’s shown to you when you open an app and doesn’t offer any information abou the screen at all. I feel, It can definitely be labelled better. So, I looked closely at the tab bars of some apps, and indeed, digging through the UI of the default apps on my iPhone, I was able to find examples that support my idea. There isn’t a single default iOS app that contains ‘home’ as the title of a tab
Here are some examples:
Notice how each of the different states in the apps have an icon that‘s contextual and a title that‘s relevant to the purpose of the tab? There’s meaning associated with each of the names.
The twitter app on iOS is guilty of the home tab laziness. They call their timeline “Home”. On the other hand, Tweetbot calls it’s timeline “Timeline” (for some reason their icons don’t display text labels, but the navigation bar titles suggest these names), a slightly more appropriate title for the twitter feed.
Apollo: The Reddit Client
Apollo’s first screen is called “Posts”. It’s a simple title with icon that’s descriptive enough to let you know that it’s a text + images timeline you’re going to look at.
Instagram uses a “Home Glyph” for its first screen. It could easily be replaced with something like “Posts”, “Feed” or even “Timeline”.
BookMyShow the ticketing service also uses the home glyph, for the screen that’s supposed to let you book tickets. How about “Book Tickets”, or just “Tickets” for a title?
Netflix vs Prime Video
Netflix’s first screen is called “Home” while Amazon Prime Video’s first screen is title “Browse”. While “Browse” is fairly descriptive of the purpose of that screen, even if it doesn’t always encompass every thing that the screen does (also shows your watch list and the movies that you’re currently watching). Home doesn’t really offer any information.
There are more examples for apps that do or don’t use the Home as a tab bar button, but it’s easy to observe here, that sometimes lazy design practices easily seep into apps, and form an unhealthy tradition of sorts. There’s no reason for Instagram’s and Twitter’s timelines to be called Home. But it’s been a convenient name given to the first screen. And that tradition’s carried on.
I hope more apps switch to clearer navigation structures.