I'm working on designing the layout for an iPhone app which will contain three tabs. I'm trying to eliminate the tab bar if possible, but I'm not sure what my alternatives are.

I'm considering a side based menu similar to the Facebook app. The problem is that we have only three tabs and I don't think three tabs makes for a good sidebar.

What are my other options for switching between three views, aside from a tab bar? Can I use a Tab Bar with a side "drawer" view?

  • 1
    Why are you trying to eliminate the tab bar? Also, are you talking about iPhone or iPad? Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 17:28
  • I'm discussing iPhone.
    – Moshe
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 17:32
  • 1
    Without the answer to why you wish to eliminate the tab bar people can only give you ideas, not necessarily the correct suggestion.
    – Viraj
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 22:06
  • 1
    My first question to anyone asking iPhone design questions: Have you read the HIG?
    – Dexter
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 2:48

5 Answers 5


None of the responses I'm seeing here even mention the Human Interface Guidlines produced by Apple. There is a section therein called "iOS UI Element Usage Guidelines" that all iOS developers should have under their pillow.

To summarize "Tab Bar" from the HIG, "A tab bar gives people the ability to switch between different subtasks, views, or modes." Following a short introduction, you will see a section titled "Guidelines" that completely outlines the dos and don'ts of tab bar usage.

Granted there are many apps (iOS and otherwise) that break these conventions, and some for good reason. The first thing I would ask myself is "Does the usage of a tab bar comply with Apple's recommended design patterns". If it does not, the solution is probably found elsewhere. However, if the answer is yes, I would then examine exactly what motives you have in stripping it. There are good reasons. Just make sure you really know what yours are before you break something that just about every iPhone user is accustomed to.


The guys over at piictu solved this with an interesting "sticky" tab bar just below the navigation bar. Could this be what you're looking for?

  • This actually breaks iOS convention
    – darryn.ten
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 7:06
  • Breaking conventions is what you do when you innovate:) Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 21:35

I don't understand why you want to get rid of the Tab Bar. It's a standard iOS control that allows users to see all the possible task-oriented views of the application:

A tab bar gives people the ability to switch between different subtasks, views, or modes.

If you replace it with a slide-out sidebar like Facebook does, you'll make the users apply more effort to explore the options, which may turn off some of them since they won't see what they want right away.

Moreover, Facebook's decision not to use the Tab Bar is quite obvious: they have too many items to fit into it comfortably. Since you have just 3, you shouldn't have a problem with the real-estate in the Tab Bar.

Nonetheless, if you wish to sacrifice discoverability of your app's functions, you can do something like what Plume does on Android: the title bar has an icon indicating it's a drop-down and tapping it opens the list of other views:

enter image description here
For the record: it's a crop of the official screenshot - I don't even know who @Shadylife is.

enter image description here


How about using a UIScrollView?

Apple UIScrollView Ref

UIScrollView Tutorial

  • Scott, could you please explain why this pattern is appropriate in this situation?
    – dnbrv
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 15:52
  • And, the sources you mentioned showcase programming point of view, can you link something from UX point of view.
    – carora3
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 12:14

You can use the Scrollable Tabs like used by Android Market. I think it will aptly fit your purpose.

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