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I am designing a splash screen for a native mobile app. I am wondering if expect for the brand identity there are any reasons from a UX perspective to include a splash screen in the app and if there are some best practices regarding how to design one.

The only UX reason I can connect such a screen to is the "onboarding" to the app; e.g. introduce the user to the app while using the loading time of the app to your advantage or build up to an "onboarding" wizard that describes how the app is used.

Please share any insights regarding the best practices and the ux reasons behind having a splash screen.

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3 Answers 3

The splash screen or launcher image is there to give the user immediate feedback that the app has started and is loading. Both Google and Apple has it in their guidelines that the splash image is their to improve the UX by simulating faster loading times. Not by advertising your brand.

Supply a plain launch image that improves the user experience. In particular, the launch image isn’t an opportunity to provide:

An “app entry experience,” such as a splash screen

An About window

Branding elements, unless they are a static part of your app’s first screen

Instead, give the user a sense of that the app is quick when loading data.

Design a launch image that is identical to the first screen of the app, except for:

Text. The launch image is static, so any text you display in it won’t be localized.

UI elements that might change. If you include elements that might look different when the app finishes launching, users can experience an unpleasant flash between the launch image and the first app screen.

From: https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/userexperience/conceptual/mobilehig/LaunchImages.html

If your application has a time-consuming initial setup phase, consider showing a splash screen or rendering the main view as quickly as possible, indicate that loading is in progress and fill the information asynchronously. In either case, you should indicate somehow that progress is being made, lest the user perceive that the application is frozen.

From: http://developer.android.com/training/articles/perf-anr.html

From my perspective, the brand identity is the only reason to show anything except an empty version of the first screen of the app. For me as a user that already knows what app I'm opening, it doesn't provide anything. What I want to know is that the app is loading so that I can start using it.

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1  
Thanks for the links. One comment though, there might be a use case for preinstalled apps that you are not aware what app you just opened as a user. In that case I do believe that the splash screen has a different value. –  FoF Jan 16 at 14:07
    
Just a note about the "Text. The launch image is static..." At least for Windows 8 apps, images can be localized, even for splash screens, and referred to by a base directory. So image1 would actually be in a folder called image1 and all images would be called image1.en-us, image1.en-gb, etc. So that's not totally true. –  William Custode Jan 16 at 20:42

The splash screen has two main functions and you mention them both: brand identity and 'onboarding'. One of the key principles in good UI design is that the user should be eased into a new screen. If you launch an app on a mobile device and you immediately get the main screen it is considered to be to abrupt. A splashscreen allows for users to get ready.

Besides that, devices might get slower over time if more and more apps are installed, memory pressure builds up or more things go on at the same time. So it could be your app, that starts immediately on your device, could take a second to load on the end users device. In that case having a splashscreen indicating the system is starting up is a good thing.

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I'm not sure I believe that 'easing a user into a new screen' is a key principle of UI design. That's just adding a delay in there that slows down the process, surely? Are the users not already 'getting ready' for the screen by having consciously pressed the launch button? –  JonW Jan 16 at 14:02
    
I agree with JonW, the concept of "onboarding" has no place in UI design. When I open an app, I know what I'm going to be doing. If your app isn't intuitive enough, then consider adding a tutorial. Do you think great apps like Gmail/Facebook are poorly designed because they don't have a splash screen every time you open the app? –  user1199931 Apr 3 at 20:29

The main purpose of the splash screen is enhancing the user experience of an interface by providing a degree of responsiveness to the users. The app might take some time to load and just showing a black screen might confuse the users into thinking the app is not working.

Furthermore, if you create an animated splash screen (EG. loading bar) the user gets instant feedback about what's happening in the background.

The second purpose, as you stated is brand identity but this is irrelevant from an UX point of view.

The "onboarding" screen you are talking about is different in every way from the splash screen and has a completely different purpose from the splash screen.

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