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I am designing an iOS app which helps real estate investors evaluate the repair cost of a property. I am playing with the idea of using a tab bar splitting the app into 4 sections along with a drill down (UINavigationController) for each tab. Is this is a good idea or should I stick with drill down by itself?

Here is the design:

The tabs are:

  1. Home. This is where the user selects the property or starts a new property.
  2. Repairs. This is where the user inputs all of the repairs and costs.
  3. Analysis. This is where the user sees the output of the total repair costs along with other financial analysis.
  4. Export. This is where the user can export a financial report to a pdf or excel file.
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If the four tabs are part of a sequence of mandatory actions, I wouldn't even use tabs actually. What if I open the app and click on repairs immediately? What's the flow of the use case(s)? –  Misha Scholte Jan 20 '13 at 18:13
    
Interesting point. There is actually a sequential flow to the 4 sections so maybe the tab bar isn't the best idea here. I looked at some similar apps and I'm now leaning towards using drill down exclusively. I feel like it's the safer way to go. –  ChemDev Jan 21 '13 at 6:11

3 Answers 3

It's a good idea.

If number of sections > 5, it's better to use one UINavigationController with root UITableViewController, which contains sections as rows in tableview.

As an alternative, slide menu controller(like in YouTube or Facebook apps) can be used.

However, I'm not sure that I understand structure:

As I think, Home should be main controller, where you select property and after that next screen with 3 tabs will appear: Repairs, Analysis and Export.

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Of course, a bunch of different navigation patterns can be used, but don't use one just because you can. Use it because it's the best solution for the problem. If you only have a couple of key activities, don't hide them from your user. Tab navigation emphasizes content consumption, exploration, creation and more. Sidebar navigation doesn't (or less at least). You should only use it as a last resort, not because it looks pretty and 'new'. Take a look at Polar on iOS for example. They absolutely nailed it –  Misha Scholte Jan 20 '13 at 17:54
    
I agree, that's why I called it alternative –  Shmidt Jan 20 '13 at 19:07
    
Thanks for the innput. I will probably stay away from a slide menu controller for the reasons stated by Misha. However, can anyone weigh in on how preferable it is to have a UITabController not be a constant throughout the app? How does Apple feel about this? –  ChemDev Jan 20 '13 at 22:00
    
What do you mean constant? You can hide tab bar when pushing next view controller. –  Shmidt Jan 21 '13 at 8:45

This sounds like a workflow for building a single quote.

  • How does this fit into the complete functionality of the application?
  • Can a person retrieve or edit past estimates?
  • Can the person start and return to a past estimate?

Guessing that the answer is yes to at least that last question, the answer I think is more complicated. Do you have a use case diagram, or a set of use cases defined in some format, that you'd care to share?

If starting an estimate, finishing it in one shot, and then exporting it and never retrieving it again, is the whole experience, just the tabs will be fine. If there is other functionality, you should have some form of a selection menu to move between working a new quote, looking up an old quote, application settings, custom options/prices/etc.

The tabs for this specific workflow will still work well, however. Consider also implementing a gesture control to move between tabs. Swipe-left to move to the next tab to the right, etc.

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I believe that what you are trying to do is quite sound. I usually use that approach. Just be careful because it is very easy to start doing awful UX mistakes.

Personally I am OK with both navigations as far as the tab bar is constant. Maybe it is just me, but everytime I see a tabbed menu I expect this to be constant with the only exception of a "play mode" view.

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