I'm developing an app that provides information about companies. I would like to have tab bar buttons for "Favorites" view and "Search" view. I also need tools for actions, for example in the Favorites view, sorting or removing or grouping.

It's my understanding that multiple buttons shouldn't be used on the navigation bar. So is my only choice to have a navigation bar, a task bar, and a tab bar? It seems that three bars is overwhelming visually and takes up valuable space that could otherwise be used for displaying list information.

My thinking is that maybe I don't really need a navigation bar because users can navigate between Favorites and Search from the tab bar. But then I'd have to use the navigation bar in a non-typical way (for example, if someone were in the Favorites area doing some task related to a group or sorting, then I'd have to un-highlight the Favorites button on the tab bar so the user would now they can tap that button to return to the Favorites main view). And obviously I understand the general rule that it's not good to use elements in untypical ways.

So my problem is basically I don't know where to put action buttons if I can't put multiple ones at the top (regardless of whether that's called a navigation bar or a tool bar) and I don't want to have three bars.

  • 1
    Welcome to the UX Stack Exchange! Can you clarify why you don't want to use "multiple buttons in the navigation bar"? Perhaps including an image would help explain what you mean...if you post a link to an image, a senior member can edit your post to display the image. Apr 30, 2013 at 21:13
  • 1
    Sure. Because it says on Apple's iOS Human Interface Guidelines (iOS UI Element Usage Guidelines section): "Avoid crowding a navigation bar with additional controls, even if there appears to be enough space. The navigation bar should contain no more than a view’s current title, the back button, and one control that manages the view’s contents. If, instead, you use a segmented control in the navigation bar, the bar should not display a title and it should not contain any controls other than the segmented control." tinyurl.com/3de5ow8
    – user31236
    Apr 30, 2013 at 21:27
  • So let's say I am in Favorites view (a list of companies that I favorited) and I want to do some actions on this list (remove some favorites, group some favorites, or sort them). According to Apple, those action buttons shouldn't even go on the navigation bar and there are too many of them. And they don't go on the tab bar at the bottom. And I don't have a task bar. It seems the only way to reduce the number of buttons is to have an Edit button that opens to these other functions but it's a pity because 1) it's more steps for the user, and 2) user at top level doesn't learn what the app can do
    – user31236
    Apr 30, 2013 at 21:34
  • The Apple guidelines are there for a reason: iPhone apps should be simple and fast to use. The GUI should focus on the primary functionality. Having secondary features be easily discoverable could actually hurt the usability of the primary functionality. You're not helping your users by overwhelming them with buttons advertising the features of the app. Moving a bunch of them out of the way to the edit mode makes a lot of sense. Jun 18, 2013 at 6:06

1 Answer 1


I would consider having a task action bar at the top of your list view that scrolls out of the way when the user scrolls down, but is easy to "pop over" the list again using a button in the top bar. This would make those tasks discoverable, while saving screen real estate during the scroll task.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • Thank you for your idea. I don't know what is the general consensus, but personally I don't like it when apps have disappearing elements because 1) I don't always remember they are there, and 2) sometimes they appear when I don't want them to appear. Are there any good examples of apps that have multiple buttons on the top bar and are well received (i.e., considered to be well designed and likable apps)?
    – user31236
    Apr 30, 2013 at 23:03
  • Maybe I should approach this question in a different way: despite Apple's guideline, should I not necessarily consider multiple buttons on the top bar to be a bad or forbidden thing? If the buttons are useful and easily accessible, and there are no space problems, what is inherently bad about having them?
    – user31236
    Apr 30, 2013 at 23:06
  • @user31236 I would just do it if you think it is a better solution (which it sounds to me like it)
    – user28446
    May 1, 2013 at 0:15

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