I have an iPad tab bar app and I want a popover to open when tapping one of the tabs. Is this good practice or should I avoid it?

For example, the bottom tab bar displays the following items:

my books | books | search | about | settings

When tapping 'books' a popover is displayed with book categories:


When tapping a category a screen loads a list of books within this category.

I'm asking this question because I personally think this is bad practice. I would like to discourage my client doing this.

  • What is the purpose of this popup? I can't imagine a good reason to do it, but if you explain what you're trying to achieve you will get more useful answers.
    – JohnGB
    Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 23:41
  • 1
    Given the size of mobile screens, I'm finding complex pop-up modals are usually a bit pointless, as they tend to be as big as the screen anyways. As such, I'd usually suggest clicking Books would cause a full page to slide up over over to show the same information. (One exception being alerts--which still have a use in a pop-up modal UI)
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 0:58
  • @DA01 Popovers are only meant for iPad apps : Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 18:40
  • @Matt AH! Didn't realize the term was specific to apple's guidelines. But yes, that does make perfect sense on an iPad where the screen size makes it a lot more usable.
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 19:56

3 Answers 3


Tapping books should bring up a new page. This action is consistent with the behavior of the other tab bars in iOS an would conform with Apple's User Experience Consistency guidelines.

A pop up menu would be used for something like a form input due to the semantic meaning.


If this is meant for both the iPad and the iPhone, you shouldn't be using a popover at all. Popovers are exclusive to the iPad, as it say in Apple's Mobile HIG

  • Edited the question, I'm specifically referring to iPad.
    – bart
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 22:13

Part of the argument against having the popover the way you mention is the potential for confusing hierarchy.

Once you've jumped to, say, non-fiction, I'm guessing you want to support the user viewing/filtering by the different categories, jumping from non-fiction to, say, fiction.

At that point, if those options are accessed through the bottom menu, I think you're working against general convention, where filters are above the content they filter (ex. iPad iTunes App).

One could argue that iOS's bottom tab bar sets a new convention, but I think that can be attributed as an outgrowth of the iPhone's patterns, and not a proposal for a more extended inversion of page hierarchy. I think some of the bottom aligned interactions work well with touch interactions, but it's a balancing act with hierarchy concepts.

I hope that's helpful,


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