I have an iPhone app whose overall UI is designed like this:


That is, a tab bar and different app perspectives within each tab item, and you can navigate to different views from within a tab.

I need to design a version of this same app for iPad, and my first idea was using the following layout:


That is, a split view inside a tab bar. I couldn't find anything in iOS HIG that forbids doing that, or even encouraging to avoid it, but I've read some posts dealing with this issue and it seems to be not recommended (for example, Split View inside of a Tab Bar in an iPad Application). I certainly couldn't find any example of a design like that in any app I've seen.

What could be the alternatives? Using simply a split view and placing the tab items as items of the split view's left side? (Like in Settings app). Or keeping a simple view with the tab bar as in the iPhone version? Or another option?

Thanks in advance

2 Answers 2


The issue with a split view is that it creates another point of focus for the ipad and also uses up valuable screen estate. However you can utilize the split view well by allowing the user to retire it as needed and slide it out as needed. To quote this article on creating better Ipad applications

The classic example of the split view (which also helped popularize it) is Mail on the iPad. The split view is typically represented with a smaller master pane on the left that aides in navigation, along with a larger detail pane on the right, which focuses on displaying content. The split view is so prevalent on Apple's own iPad applications (it appears in Mail, Notes, Messages, Reminders, and Settings) that it almost feels like the default view for the iPad when in landscape orientation.

The major shortcoming of the split view is it creates a busy and unfocused screen. That's not a big deal in the Settings application, but in Mail, where every email that must be responded to, filed, or deleted is always a tap away, users shouldn't have to rotate into portrait to get a more focused mode.

The split view isn't going anywhere just yet though, so here are some takeaways:

  • Don't simply default to using a split view when designing landscape views on the iPad.
  • Although it’s not recommended by Apple yet, consider an option to hide the master pane when using a split view.
  • A more daring approach would be to follow the portrait model of using a popover for showing a list view even when in landscape (see iA Writer).

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  • I've been having a look to the article you linked to, and I'm considering such iA Writer-style but I also liked the one below in the PBS app screenshot... It is similar to Twitter app for iPad. That is still a split view, or it is a vertical tab bar? Would it be nice to show popovers when tapping a tab item, in a similar way iA Writer does when tapping the toolbar items?
    – AppsDev
    May 14, 2013 at 8:24
  • I answer this point myself: Spotify app for iPad shows the vertical tab bar at the left side, and displays a popover when tapping its "Settings" item
    – AppsDev
    May 15, 2013 at 7:55

There are already usage patterns for this type of interaction that are standard on iPads. Granted, none that I know of with a tab bar, but that shouldn't change the principle at all.

I would recommend not doing this, but rather having an optional overlaying sidebar in portrait mode, which then becomes an always visible sidebar in landscape mode. The Mail app does just this, and it's one that most iPad users are likely to be familiar with. So unless there is a good reason not to (which you haven't given so far), I would follow Mail's example.

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To quote a similar question on StackOverflow:

... there used to be a section in the HIG that said that you must not do this, and then they changed it to one saying you should try to avoid doing this. So I think you're clear, as long as the design makes sense...

At any rate, there's nothing in the HIG under either tab bar or split view that says you can't do what you want.

  • Thanks, I think this pattern is convinient if all tab items from my original iPhone app version leads to a table view that in turn you can navigate (similar to Mail: you firstly find several mailboxes that you can navigate within the left side of the split view), as in the mockup I uploaded. But what if you have any tab item whose first view is not a table view? (for instance, a camera view or map view... this would be like having a mailbox entry that doesn´t navigate to another table view)
    – AppsDev
    May 14, 2013 at 14:44
  • Could you tell me where can I find more examples of that revealing/hiding of the left pane apart from Mail app?
    – AppsDev
    May 22, 2013 at 15:44
  • @AppsDev Not off the top of my head. If you ask in chat, some of the other guys may be able to help.
    – JohnGB
    May 22, 2013 at 15:54
  • Should an app that has a tab bar in iPhone, like my first mockup, keep having simply a tab bar (without split view) in its iPad version? I've found that iTunes and App Store apps are that way
    – AppsDev
    May 28, 2013 at 18:07

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