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The do's and don'ts of UI: iOS app design guidelines

TL;DR: When approaching the UI design of iOS apps, focus on clarity, simplicity, and intuitive navigation in iOS app design. Use familiar elements, ensure legibility, and avoid overloading with features. Regularly test and update based on user feedback to maintain engagement and compliance with Apple's standards for a seamless user experience.

Are you designing a UI for iOS devices? Knowing the UI do’s and don’ts from Apple itself is essential.

Our guide breaks down the complex Apple requirements into practical tips that will help you elevate your app’s design and meet Apple’s standards, keeping users engaged and satisfied.

Let's explore what works, what doesn’t, and how to deliver that quintessential Apple experience.

Key takeaways

  • Apple’s UI design principles: clarity, deference, and depth are critical for creating intuitive and visually appealing iOS apps that align with user expectations.
  • Key do’s in iOS app design include using standard interface elements for familiarity, optimizing apps for various screen sizes and devices, and using high-resolution images to complement Retina displays.
  • Avoid common UI design pitfalls such as overloading with features, neglecting text legibility, and relying on custom gestures as primary navigation to prevent compromising the user experience.
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Apple's UI design principles

smartphone, cellphone, touchscreen

To achieve Apple's UI design excellence and secure App Store approval for Apple webview apps, developers must internalize and apply three core principles: clarity, deference, and depth.

These are not just buzzwords; they form the core foundation of user-friendly interfaces that are visually appealing and intuitive, aligning with the iOS user experience.

Developers should conduct comprehensive user research to understand preferences and behaviors.

Apple provides developers with resources and guidelines to create apps that seamlessly integrate with the iOS ecosystem, ensuring compliance with the design principles necessary for App Store acceptance.


Clarity is essential for a seamless user experience in many mobile apps, ensuring users can navigate easily and understand content at a glance. A clear UI design enables users to confidently and accurately interact with your app.

Here are some essential tips to ensure your UI design is clear, user-friendly, and effective:

  • Clarity is achieved by avoiding complex jargon and ensuring straightforward guidance.
  • Precise actions, comprehensible words, and immediate content understanding are key.
  • A cluttered screen with too much information can overwhelm and confuse users, potentially causing them to abandon the app.

Despite the need for clarity, it's important to maintain visual appeal.

Aesthetic elements should be used strategically to guide users through the app's navigation without overwhelming them with unnecessary details.

Tip: Keep it simple. Strive for simplicity in design to ensure users understand and can navigate your app effortlessly and grasp its content without confusion.


Deference in UI design is about creating a simple interface that highlights the content, not the design elements themselves.

A minimalist approach and clear typography are key to ensuring the content remains the focal point without distractions.

Key points for achieving deference in your app's UI include:

  • Design the interface to be a transparent conduit for content.
  • Use negative space to draw focus to the content.
  • Select typography that enhances readability and guides the user through the app.
  • Make sure interactive elements are intuitive and complement the content.

An interface that practices deference steps back to let content take center stage, ensuring users' attention remains on what matters without distraction from design elements.

Tip: Embrace minimalism in your design to ensure the content shines, keeping the interface elements understated yet functional.


In UI design, depth plays a pivotal role in directing user attention and creating a sense of hierarchy within the interface.

It employs visual cues such as varying sizes, contrasting colors, and shadow effects to establish a visual order, guiding users on where to focus and interact next.

Depth adds dimension to the interface, distinguishing interactive elements from static ones, resulting in a more organized and user-friendly app.

To effectively create a perception of depth, consider these key strategies:

  • Use shadowing to lift elements like buttons off the screen, inviting user interaction.
  • Employ scale to signify the importance of certain elements over others.
  • Use color gradients and contrasts to indicate depth and organize content.

By integrating depth into the UI, designers can transform flat screens into dynamic and engaging 3D spaces that not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also improve the overall user experience.

This approach makes interactions with unnecessary elements of the app more intuitive and satisfying for the user.

Tip: Add a dash of depth to your design by layering visual elements. This creates a sense of space, leading users on a 3D journey through your app, making each tap and swipe a delightful discovery.

Essential UI do's for iOS apps

Illustration of standard interface elements for iOS apps

The key principles of iOS app design focus on delivering a user experience that is not only operational but also naturally intuitive.

These strategies are essential to keep mobile UX design current and meet the anticipations of those who use iOS apps.

Adherence to these foundational guidelines can elevate an app from simple availability in the App Store to becoming a staple on user’s devices. Addressing the essentials involves leveraging standard interface elements, ensuring compatibility with multiple screen sizes, and providing crystal clear visuals.

When properly implemented, these core aspects of app design turn into a seamless user experience that goes beyond satisfaction and become something users expect.

Some do's for iOS apps include:

  • Familiar interface elements: Ensure ease of navigation by using standard components like buttons and sliders that users recognize.
  • Responsive design: Cater to all devices and screen sizes, from iPhone SE to iPad Pro, with a display that adjusts elegantly and maintains legibility.
  • High-resolution imagery: Use sharp, clear visuals to match Retina display sophistication, ensuring images maintain proper aspect ratios for authenticity.

Common UI don'ts for iOS apps

smartphone, telephone, mobile

App developers must be aware of common design mistakes to avoid them, as much as they should understand correct procedures.

These oversights can result in an app being discarded after a single use rather than becoming a mainstay on the user’s home screen.

It is important not to overload your iOS app with too many features, and to make sure every word displayed is legible without needing additional magnification.

By paying attention to these warnings, you’ll steer clear of typical pitfalls in app design and help navigate through the potential hazards associated with creating an appealing and functional application for users.

Some don't for iOS apps include:

  • Avoid feature overload: Prioritize user needs over excessive features to prevent a cluttered app experience.
  • Ensure text legibility: Maintain readability with appropriate font sizes and contrast to facilitate user engagement.
  • Conventional navigation: Use standard gestures for primary navigation to keep the user experience intuitive and accessible.

Tip: When designing for iOS, do prioritize user-centric design by adhering to Apple's Human Interface Guidelines, but don't let innovation be stifled — ensure your unique features still align with intuitive usage patterns.

Enhancing user engagement with iOS app design

Illustration of personalized user experience in iOS app design

Maximizing user engagement is important for the success of any webview app developer, transforming random app users into loyal ones.

To achieve this, tailor the user experience, solicit feedback effectively, and ensure a seamless interface across various devices.

Rather than just retaining users, it’s about creating a strong connection that transcends basic digital interaction. Understand and fulfill user expectations by developing a web to app experience that feels custom-made.

This section outlines how to integrate these critical engagement strategies into the architecture of your app design, ensuring your webview app stands out in a competitive market.

Personalize the user experience

Personalizing the user experience is crucial for user engagement. Customize app onboarding to individual needs, ensuring efficiency and privacy.

Essential access and permissions requests should be made minimally to build trust and demonstrate app value. Personalization should not overwhelm but expedite user access and choices and enhance satisfaction.

Key personalization strategies include:

  • Customizing the onboarding journey to individual user preferences
  • Minimizing permission requests to essential times
  • Balancing personalization with efficiency and privacy
  • Simplifying choices to improve user process and satisfaction

A thoughtful personalization approach streamlines the user journey, enhancing trust and satisfaction. It anticipates user needs, fostering a deeper app connection.

Tip: Boost user engagement by strategically incorporating personalized settings and features. Tailor the app experience to individual preferences, creating a sense of value and catering to the unique needs of each user.

Implement feedback mechanisms

To secure ongoing App Store approval, consider user feedback as a cornerstone for your app's enhancement.

This feedback is a critical source of direct insights, enabling you to discern which features resonate with users and which areas necessitate improvement.

Neglecting this feedback can result in users feeling overlooked, potentially impacting their continued use of your app.

It is essential to actively integrate feedback mechanisms within your app. From subtle animations that confirm user interactions to explicit methods such as in-app surveys, each interaction should offer users clear confirmation that their user input is valued and impactful.

By establishing a continuous feedback loop, you ensure that your app remains dynamic and responsive to user needs, a key factor in maintaining app store approval and user satisfaction.

Tip: Encourage user feedback by integrating simple feedback tools like surveys or prompts in your app, and consider offering incentives for their valuable insights.

Create a seamless experience across devices

mac, apple, iphone

A key to making your app stand out in the App Store is ensuring that your app integrates seamlessly within the broader device ecosystem, providing one app flow across multiple screens, and a unified user journey across different platforms, such as various iPhone models, iPads, and even the Apple Watch.

To achieve this:

  • Maintain uniform core UI elements and functionalities across all devices to ensure consistency.
  • Avoid the use of in-app browsers to prevent disrupting the user experience.
  • Strive for intuitive navigation that feels familiar, regardless of the device being used.

By focusing on creating a cohesive cross-device experience, you establish your app as a reliable and user-friendly option in the App Store.

This consistency builds trust with users and encourages ongoing interaction with your app, contributing to its standout presence in a crowded marketplace.

Tip: Ensure a consistent and fluid experience for mobile apps across all Apple devices to foster familiarity and ease of use, cementing user confidence and satisfaction with your mobile app.

Testing and iteration in iOS app design

Illustration of usability testing for iOS apps

The development of an iOS app is a continuous cycle of rigorous testing and relentless refinement. Developers must prioritize real-world user interactions and feedback to elevate the app's performance and user satisfaction.

This pursuit of continuous improvement ensures that the app remains at the forefront of innovation.

A continuous design approach is crucial, each update should introduce new features, refine existing functionalities, and bring the app closer to its optimal state.

This section will guide you through the key stages of integrating this cycle of improvement into your app's design strategy.

Conduct usability testing

User feedback is an essential component of app development, and iOS app beta testing provides a crucial stage for real users to evaluate the app's functionality in practical scenarios.

This form of testing is a targeted approach where selected users trial the app before it's fully released, allowing app developers to observe and identify any usability issues or bugs.

The insights gained from beta testing are invaluable, they ensure that the app is not only visually appealing but also highly functional and user-friendly.

To conduct effective iOS app beta testing, it's important to set clear goals, recruit a diverse group of testers, and create scenarios that mimic real-world use. This helps to simulate genuine user behavior, providing accurate data on the app's performance and user satisfaction.

Beta testing should be an integral part of the app development life cycle, starting early in the development phase and continuing through to post-launch updates, consistently incorporating user feedback to meet and exceed evolving user expectations.

Tip: Embrace beta testing as an essential step — gathering real-world user feedback to polish your app before its grand debut.

Gather user feedback

Gathering user feedback can be done through various channels, such as in-app surveys, direct user communications, or app store reviews.

Each piece of feedback is integral, offering a glimpse into the users' perspective and informing the enhancement of the app's purpose further.

To collection user feedback, consider the following strategies:

  • Employ in-app surveys that are concise and strategically timed to maximize response rates without disrupting the user experience.
  • Facilitate direct communication channels, such as feedback forms or support emails, to encourage detailed and constructive user suggestions.
  • Monitor and analyze App Store reviews regularly to capture the sentiments and suggestions of a broader user base.

By establishing these feedback mechanisms, developers not only gain valuable insights into potential improvements but also signal to users that their input is valued.

Tip: Value user feedback as a tool for growth. Actively seek it out through surveys and reviews, and use it to directly influence app improvements, demonstrating to users that their input is both valued and impactful.

Embrace an iterative design process

Continuously improve your mobile app, by directly applying user feedback, tracking market trends, and integrating new technologies.

This approach is not limited to addressing bugs or adding new features. It involves a systematic refinement of the user experience with every update.

Incorporate user feedback, data analytics, and creative innovation to elevate the user interface. Conduct regular A/B testing to measure the impact of changes, ensuring that each iteration improves user interaction with your app.

Iteration is not just a strategy; it is a mindset that drives your app to the forefront of the iOS app landscape.


Clarity, deference, and depth are the cornerstones of Apple's UI design philosophy. To create iOS apps that resonate with users and adhere to Apple's stringent standards, focus on these principles.

Ensure your design is intuitive with clear navigation and legibility, maintain a minimalist aesthetic that underscores your content, and use visual layers to create hierarchy and focus.

Remember to incorporate standard interface elements and optimize for all screen sizes to enhance familiarity and usability.

Steer clear of feature overload, poor text readability, and non-standard gestures to avoid user confusion and dissatisfaction.

Engage users by personalizing their experience, implement feedback mechanisms to refine your app, and create a consistent experience across all mobile devices.

Embrace an iterative design process, incorporating user feedback and analytics to continually improve your app.

By adhering to these guidelines, you'll be well on your way to designing iOS apps that are not only functional and aesthetically pleasing but also provide a seamless and engaging user experience.

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Frequently asked questions

How often should I conduct usability testing for my iOS app?

You should conduct usability testing throughout the design and development phases of your iOS app to continuously refine it and prioritize features based on user feedback and usage patterns. Regular user testing ensures the app meets user needs.

What is the recommended minimum text size for legibility in UI design?

The recommended minimum text size for legibility in UI design according to Apple’s guidelines is 11 points.

Is it a good idea to use custom gestures as the primary method of navigation in my app?

It is advisable to adhere to conventional iOS navigation patterns for the app’s main method of direction, except in cases where unique gestures are integral to the application’s interaction, like within a gaming context.

Can I personalize the user experience for each individual user of my app?

Certainly, tailoring the user experience to align with individual behavior and preferences can markedly boost engagement through personalized onboarding and adapting features to cater to the unique needs of each user.

What is an iterative design process, and why is it important?

Refining and enhancing the app’s user interface through an iterative design process is crucial. It involves making improvements based on how users interact with the application and their feedback, ensuring that the app remains competitive by evolving in line with user requirements.

How can I ensure my app's interface aligns with Apple's UI design principles?

To align with Apple's UI design principles, focus on clarity, simplicity, and intuitive navigation. Use familiar interface elements, prioritize content with a minimalist design approach, and create a sense of depth with visual cues. Regularly refer to Apple's Human Interface Guidelines for the latest recommendations.

How do I balance between innovation and Apple's standard UI elements?

Innovation can be balanced with Apple's standard UI elements by introducing unique features that enhance the user experience while ensuring they complement the intuitive navigation patterns iOS users are accustomed to. Test new ideas with users to gauge their effectiveness before fully implementing them.

What are the best practices for designing for different Apple devices?

Best practices for designing for different Apple devices include using responsive design techniques, ensuring that UI elements scale correctly for different screen sizes, and maintaining consistent functionality and aesthetics across devices. Use Auto Layout and Size Classes in your design to support a range of devices.

How can I improve text legibility in my app's design?

Improve text legibility by choosing fonts that are easy to read, using appropriate font sizes (Apple's minimum recommended size is 11 points), ensuring high contrast between text and background, and providing sufficient spacing between lines and characters.

What strategies can be used to enhance user engagement in my app?

Enhance user engagement by personalizing the user experience, implementing effective feedback mechanisms, offering rewards for user interaction, and creating a seamless experience across devices. Regular updates that introduce new content or features can also keep users interested and engaged.

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