Before iOS 7 form navigation in iOS 6 Safari was handled by a "Previous,Next" segmented control just above the keyboard.

ios 6 safari

But with iOS 7 they are replaced with arrows "<,>".

ios 7 safari

However in the iOS 7 Apple Store app they are back to "Previous,Next" without the segmented control.

iOS 7 Apple Store

Any reason I would want one over the other as long as the VoiceOver hints for both said "Previous, Next"?

  • Or does this really matter? Am I bikeshedding here? Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:01
  • I believe the </> buttons regard navigation (previous/next page) and "previous"/"next" texts regard navigating through the fields of the form. For the field by field navigation using </> would be misleading, because user would think that this is navigating between process steps. Anyway, I agree that this pattern is not perfect. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:09
  • @DominikOslizlo I think you are thinking of this screen without the keyboard. zurb.com/blog/system/images/904/original/blog-4.jpg?1371059571 Notice the slightly different spacing between the arrows in this pic and the one with the keyboard. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:49
  • Yes, you are right. It's my mistake. </> really are used for navigating between fields (which is bad, I think, as I still believe these are more related to moving backward/forward through history. In this case I think this shows inconsistency - which most probably derives from the recent redesign of iOS. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 18:43
  • @SteveMoser If any of the answers were helpful or useful to you, it would be nice if you could accept one.
    – VAlexander
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 23:24

3 Answers 3


The only plausible reason I could imagine would be:

  1. You want to limit localization efforts.
  2. You think that the icons are less distracting from the user's eyes sliding down to the keyword. There is a camp in usability that says that extra words are distractions because your head tries to read them. Symbols don't often use the same amount of cognitive "work".
  • As far as #1 goes, an app still needs to be localized for VoiceOver users. You could be on to something with #2 since the user's content in Safari is more important than their content in a shipping form. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:52

"As Safari goes, so goes the iOS"

Well, maybe not, but I would imitate Safari which is probably more at the forefront of Apple development than the Apple Store app, which Jony Ive probably doesn't fuss over as much.

  • Thanks. Just an FYI, my last example was from Apple's Apple Store app where you buy physical things vs. their App Store app where you buy apps. Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 15:46
  • Oh yeah, thanks for pointing that out. I was totally thinking Apple Store, but I wrote App Store. I fixed that typo now. Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 19:40

In most cases where < & > are used, there will probably be some sort of textfields on the screen, not to mention a keyboard. With that in mind, I believe that the less crammed the screen is, the better the user experience. To avoid having to localize your app I'd say go with arrows. I will say that I really dislike those default arrows and wish apple would have chosen nicer ones. However, the reason they probably chose those as opposed to something more beautiful, is because they might be using text instead of actual images.

The way I'd approach this, is to make my own images. If you're presenting a text field, I say design a new icon that would make it obvious to the user that they'll be moving onto the next textfield in a form. An arrow alone can create confusion (your question is an example of such confusion). However if you throw some sort of context into the image, not only would it be universally understood, but would also resolve the confusion, save you time by not worrying about the localization of text (which is different than localization of speech synthesis), and it would also improve the user experience.

Unfortunately I'm on my phone right now, but when I get to my mac tomorrow I'll draft a quick icon to show you what I mean by replacing the next / previous concept with a new image containing context.

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