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on iOS, pressing the home button takes you to the home screen (desktop). Double tapping the home button brings up a list of recently used app. You can select an app to switch apps or even pick the one you're currently running. If you press home again iOS returns to the app you're in.

This frustrates me to no end. 3 of 4 times when I want to go to the home screen I double tap home by accident or habit from switching. To get the home screen I now have to press home again, wait, then press it again.

My thinking is that pressing home once should ALWAYS go to the home screen, never back to the current app. The reason is the user intentionally pressed the home button. That means either they wanted to switch apps or they wanted to go to the home screen. There seems almost no situation in which they pressed it by mistake and want to go back to their app. If they did want to go back to their app they can just click the screenshot which is shown immediately on double tapping so that option exists.

Is there any valid reason pressing home should go back to the app? It seems like an oversight. Like maybe iOS8 will change this behavior.

  • As an aside to the question, your home screen will appear as the leftmost running "app" on the app switcher screen. This doesn't invalidate any of the points you made though – Gareth Mar 16 '14 at 10:11
  • The app switcher needs a cancel. If it would center on the current app by default, then there was an easy and obvious cancel. However it doesn't, and that is the really interesting UX question to me. – Kris Van Bael Mar 17 '14 at 7:25
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The choice that Apple made here was to always use the "Home" button to cancel an operation.

You can see the same behavior if you have the "guided access" feature turned on and have set it up such that it activates itself when clicking on the "Home" button three times (see http://support.apple.com/kb/ht5509). Then, the same single click on the home button cancels "guided access" the same way it also cancels the app switcher.

From this standpoint, the "home" button acts the same in similar situations, and you can tell there was a deliberate decision taken that let to this.

I would actually argue that the overall behavior of multi-clicking the "home" button is quite ok from a usability point of view.

  1. First, you can leave both modes the same way you entered them (if by accident or not). You double-click the "home" button to enter the "app switcher" mode; you can double-click it again to exit it. Similarly with "guided access": click "home" three times to enter the mode, three times again to exit it.
  2. Second, if you accidentally enter any of these mode, clicking the "home" button again doesn't forward you to yet-another state, but brings you back to where you came from. You could say that the "home" button acts as kind of a "panic" button in this case.

This second decision is debatable, of course. I'd say that there's no single "right" solution in this case. For me, your suggestion to always bring the user back to the "home" screen when single-clicking the button would be an excellent choice as well. That would be especially helpful on older devices, where the "home" button starts to act up and doesn't detect multi-clicks reliably anymore: I enter either mode accidentally more and more frequently because of this. Still, I would consider your behavior less desirable in case I accidentally ended up in "guided access" mode, but this is really just me now.

As usual on these matters, I presume that it was all user tested well enough to justify the decision taken ;-)

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The iOS home button's gotten a lot more complicated than just taking you back to the homescreen; if you're in an app and press the home button once it'll take you back to the last state your homescreen was in. That is to say, if you accessed the app from a folder, it'll take you back to the folder and you'll have to press the home button again or tap out of the folder to get back to the actual homescreen.

Pressing the home button to exit out of the multi-tasker uses a similar paradigm; rather than taking you back to the actual homescreen, it takes you back to the last state your phone was in before you entered the multi-tasker, namely, the last app you were in.

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