To Splash or not to splash?

We’ve had a few comments from users requesting that we don’t use splash screens on our iPhone apps so that they can get to the app faster.

However the truth is that developers use splash screens to mask the loading times of their apps. Our reasoning for using them is threefold:

  1. to give you something to look at while the app is loading
  2. we put a lot of work into our icon designs and splash screens give you a chance to get a better look at them
  3. branding – hopefully if you own more than one of our apps you’ll realise they’re by the same people as soon as you see the splash screen

splash-screens-small1

Looking at the apps on my iPhone it seems to be split about 50/50 between those that have splash screens and those that don’t.

Noticeably Apple don’t use them – when I launch my Calendar or iPod app I’m looking at a blank screen for about 3 or 4 seconds – but then Apple don’t use them on their desktop applications either whereas most 3rd party developers do – I see the PhotoShop and Microsoft Word loading screens numerous times each day and think nothing of it.

So, what do you think? Would you rather look at a blank screen or a splash screen? Would you like to see us try and do something different with them? The splash for AboutTime is designed to be more in keeping with the look of the app itself – an old leather book cover that turns back to reveal the time underneath…

Let us know your thoughts.

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9 Responses to “To Splash or not to splash?”

  1. Matt Says:

    I would absolutely like the splash screen removed. That was actually one of my main complaints about the software (Done rocks, btw). If you can increase load time and remove the splash screen, I would be quite happy with Done.

  2. chillix Says:

    Hi Matt

    what is it you hate about the splash screen – is it the fact that it exists at all or the design of the one we use?

  3. Morgan Says:

    Chillix: I like that you’re asking this question (I don’t own any of your apps, by the way, just browsing, following links, and drinking a margarita… they do look well done). Personally, I’d prefer the splash screens removed also, or at least the preference to remove them like some desktop applications have included. On the phone, in the wild, I find that I would rather have my apps show the same leaning toward minimalism and efficiency, hold to interface conventions, and work more like a quick and widgety tool, to match Apple’s apparent vision for the phone.

    One of my favorite things about the iPhone is that it is wonderfully and mercifully free of such branding attempts compared to other phones. I like that the only mention of AT&T’s ‘wonderful network and service’ is in the upper left, next to the reception bars. No invasive logos, no further attempts to sell to the people who have already bought in.

    Splash screens themselves feel to me like a ‘layover’, an unwanted temporary destination. Believe me, I know where I’m going. The fact that your splash screen is being perceived as a ‘delay’ is interesting, no?

    You mention in your article the splash screens for Word and Photoshop, but two things come to mind: 1. this is a phone, not the desktop, and 2. if an iPhone app takes that long to load, it probably won’t last long on the phone, or get good comment in the App Store.

    I’m searching the depths of my memory here, and I am not an iPhone developer, just someone very interested in the platform, but I think I can recall reading of a UI convention (or maybe just a recommendation?) for the iPhone involving splash screens… that basically ALL apps have them, and they are to look like a sort of ‘pre-loaded’ state (working screen with no data, for example, in the absence of a true progress bar). This goes far for continuity and streamlined UI feel, from the moment the user decides that they need to use the app they’ve already paid for, for what it does.

    To answer your above questions: I think your particular splash screens are nice and tasteful, but I still don’t want to see them. It’s interesting to note that they are essentially larger versions of the icons for the apps themselves, that the user has already located on the phone, acknowledged, and tapped to launch the app. Do they really need to see it any longer? This fact also tells me that branding can very effectively be done within the icon itself and the surrounding visuals within the app, like the ‘App Cubby’ people have managed to do.

    The splash for AboutTime seems to be closer to the idea: Have it be part of the continuity in the time from when someone wants to use the app they’ve already acquired, to the point at which they are using it to get things done.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

  4. chillix Says:

    Morgan – thanks for the incredibly well reasoned response.

    I can see exactly what you mean about the iPhone minimal approach to branding – I too appreciate the ‘less is more’ approach (that’s why we try to keep the look and feel of our apps as simple and uncluttered as possible).

    You’re right when you say that the splash screen can be ‘blank’ version of the app. Lunch Apple’s Calendar app for example and you see an empty screen for a few seconds until the data appears. This works fine for some apps – our to do list Done would just show an empty list until the data appeared – but not so well for others, clocks and photoframes for instance.

    As for loading times, I don’t think any of our apps take longer to load than anybody else’s (including Apple’s.

    Another solution that we’re looking into, is to take a screengrab of the app when you quit it and then use that as the splash screen the next time you launch. I think this is what Apple’s Notes app does. Try launching that and you’ll see that the app appears instantly (it’s just a picture of your notes) but you can’t interact with it for a few seconds until the app itself has loaded…

    Again, this solution could work for some of our apps but not others – who wants a clock to open showing the wrong time!

    Keep watching and we’ll keep trying to get it right.

  5. Matt Says:

    To chillix:

    It’s really that it makes it seem like it takes more time to get the app started. I understand, however, that it is a placeholder because the app has to load up anyway. That’s why I say if you can speed up the load time and get rid of the splash, I’m all for it. Otherwise, it doesn’t need to change.

  6. chillix Says:

    Hi Matt

    thanks for clarifying. Although we’re always trying to speed up the load times for the apps it’s linked to the graphical complexity (and therefore size) of the app. Simple data based apps will load faster than graphically intense ones (Bejewelled takes about 10 seconds).

    We’re going to be looking at trying to do more interesting things with them wherever possible though – and who knows what might change when OS 3.0 is announced tomorrow?

  7. RomeApart Says:

    I like the splash screens. I would like to get to the apps as quickly as possible, but I totally understand the reason for having them.

  8. Marc Says:

    While branding thoughts are perhaps understandable, I’d agree that it’s preferable to avoid them where possible.

    The options have been discussed (blank background, screenshot), but an added refinement to consider would be animation after the splash screen.

    Groceries is a good example, where the background (a corkboard) is the static splash, and then the list slides up from the bottom of the screen, into place.

    An option for Done might be to use a screenshot in the reversed style of the wallpaper and then fade to the user’s preferred style (default white).

    For the clock apps the blank app frame would be the splash screen, and then the numbers could be animated to reach the current date/time (e.g. flip clocks), and any photos could slide into place.

    These effects serve to softly indicate that the app is ready and can actually distract form the startup delay.

  9. aloha2483 Says:

    As someone who owns and Loves Done, I vote to leave the splash. The bright orange check mark makes me feel like I’m about to take command of my ever growing world of lists. The check mark and sound effects are helpful to see what has gotten done, and encouraging as well.
    Well DONE!

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