The iOS home screen is extremely simple and consistent. It consists of multiple pages of icons, layed out in a 5-by-4 grid1. Located at the bottem is a dock, with four or five icons, that remains fixed across pages. Each icon represent an app, a web-app or a folder of (web-)apps. Tapping an icon launches its associated app. Hitting the home button quits the app and returns you to the home screen.
Over time, the avid person will collect a couple of screenfuls of apps. Every time he installs an app, iOS will add its icon to the first page, starting at page 2, that has free space left. Before long, the simple home screen becomes an unmanged mess of icons, roughly2 sorted by the date on which they were added.
Fortunately, iOS allows the user to manage the grid of icons through what is called wiggle mode. It is called this way because it is visually represented by the icons that wiggle in-place. In this mode, a user can remove an icon by pressing the x-badge, or rearrange an icon by finger-dragging it to a new position. While this is straightforward, and even fun, inside a single page, it becomes very tedious when dragging icons across pages. Unfortunately, this use case is not uncommon, as users will often move their most-used and favorite apps to page 1, where they are more easily accessible.
The most effective way to do this right now, is to add all these apps into a folder, moving the folder to the desired page, and then extracting each icon from that folder. However, considering that not all of the icons are located on the same page, collecting one icon into the folder will often push other icons to the next page, as the folder takes up room inside the grid.
I propose a concept for rearranging home screen icons that makes it easier to move an icon (an app or a folder), or a set of icons, across pages. The concept is inspired by the way that Daedalus handles moving pages from one stack to another. The concept consists of a dock-like pane, the wiggle pane, that appears at the right side of the home screen, as soon as the user enters wiggle mode. The wiggle pane, like the normal dock on the home screen, is fixed across pages.
The wiggle pane entirely replaces the ability to drag icons across pages (by hovering close to the edge). Instead, the user can move any icon, app or folder, to the pane, as long as there is room left. Icons in the pane will be centered vertically (like the dock on OS X).
Because the pane is shared across pages, a user can move from page to page, adding the icons he wishes to move. Once he arrives at a target page, he can drag out an icon, into the desired location.
Canceling wiggle mode while there are icons left in the pane, will cause these icons to be positioned the same way as when installing apps. The reason for this is twofold.
- Their original positions might have been taken up by a new icons (icon swap), so returning them is not an option.
- Cancelling wiggle mode with icons left in the pane, means that the user doesn’t care about their location. In other words, it reveals the intend that these icons can be discarded.
While my illustrations of the wiggle pane are limited to the iPad, the iPhone could make use of a similar system. Because the space on the iPhone home screen is more limited, adding the wiggle pane might be a little more tricky though.