Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Tab Bar and Sidebar in iPadOS 18

Tim Hardwick:

In iPadOS 18, Apple has redesigned the tab bar experience for many apps like Podcasts, Apple TV, and Apple Music. Previously in these apps, tabs sat at the bottom of the interface. When in portrait orientation however, tab bars now sit at the top of these apps to be closer to other navigation controls, while a customizable sidebar appears in landscape mode.


To accompany the new tab bars, sidebars in apps have been updated to help users navigate apps and provide quick access to top-level destinations.

Together, side bars and tab bars support user customization, so it's now possible to drag and drop items from the sidebar into a pinned section on the tab bar for even quicker access to favorite content.

Nico Reese (via Steve Troughton-Smith):

Apple has made significant updates to UITabBarController, which now supports displaying a sidebar as well. By default, the tab bar floats at the top of the screen and uses only text labels, essentially placed in the navigation bar’s title view area. Optionally, developers can add a sidebar button to the tab bar. When tapped, the tab bar morphs into a sidebar on the left side of the screen.

Unfortunately, this change brings many complex issues, some of which I want to discuss as I try to integrate these updates into my app, Gamery. These issues are particularly frustrating for me as a developer attempting to implement this new UI.

When sidebars were first introduced in iPadOS 14, it seemed like Apple was moving the iPad experience closer to that of a desktop. It was a step in the right direction. Now, it feels like they are regressing, making the app experience confusing and unnecessarily complex.

Federico Viticci:

Earlier today on Mastodon, I shared some concerns regarding the Books app in iPadOS 18 and how Apple implemented the new tab bar design in the app. Effectively, by eschewing a sidebar, the app has returned to feeling like a blown-up iPhone version – something I hoped we had left behind when Apple announced they wanted to make iPad apps more desktop-class two years ago.


[S]ince tab bars now sit alongside toolbar items, the entire UI can get very condensed, with buttons often ending up hidden away in an overflow menu.


If the goal was to simplify the iPad’s UI, well, now iPad users will end up with three ways to navigate apps instead of two, with the default method (the top bar) now generally displaying fewer items than before, without glyphs to make them stand out.

Kyle Howells:

This new combined side bar and tab bar design just seems to make both the tab bar and the side bar worse and the iPad even more limited….

The 2 big UI changes this year, Photos & the new tab bar and both flops that I’m hoping will be reverted.


1 Comment RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I haven't tried the betas, but I had (and still have, honestly) high hopes for this new tab bar design. I regularly find navigation pretty bad in my iPad mini when in portrait orientation, as I switch between 3 awful states:

• I keep looking for some functionality like search, but it's hidden behind the sidebar button in the top left corner, even though the navigation bar is almost entirely empty
• The sidebar button sometimes acts as a toggle, and then the whole screen feels cramped as more than a third of the screen is taken over
• When the sidebar button opens a floating sidebar, navigation feels cumbersome, requiring two taps to do anything

The tab bar, on paper at least, fixes that — now I should be able to quickly switch between main areas, and the extended menu (the sidebar itself) should be more discoverable if it's right next to the navigation elements.

The alternative would be to have something like Material Design's "navigation rail" (i.e. a narrow, icon-only sidebar — I'm open to that, too. I'd rather have them refine the new tab bar or explore this space further than simply give up and return to iPadOS 17's status quo.

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