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I have been developing a couple of applications now and I have also come across the following issue multiple times:

Can I omit/hide the status bar in my application throughout the whole application ? What impact does that have on the user experience ? Is it really important for the user to know what time it is or what the reception is at that particular moment (especially where the information (clock) is really just a button-click away) ?

I ask this because sometimes the status bar interferes with the design of the app in an uncomfortable way, and now I kind of find myself at this crossroads.

  • You didn't specify, but I'm assuming you mean a mobile application. Phone? Tablet? – John S Dec 29 '14 at 21:05
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The status bar was put there for a reason, and both Apple and Android guidelines discourage designers from hiding it.

Apple:

Think twice before permanently hiding the status bar. Because the status bar is transparent, it’s not usually necessary to hide it. Permanently hiding the status bar means that users must switch away from your app to read the time or to find out whether they have a Wi-Fi connection.

With Android this used to be stated more explicitly, but they still say that:

The system bars are screen areas dedicated to the display of notifications, communication of device status, and device navigation. Typically the system bars (which consist of the status and navigation bars, as shown in figure 1) are displayed concurrently with your app. Apps that display immersive content, such as movies or images, can temporarily dim the system bar icons for a less distracting experience, or temporarily hide the bars for a fully immersive experience.

If you're familiar with the Android Design Guide, you know the importance of designing your apps to conform to standard Android UI guidelines and usage patterns. You should carefully consider your users' needs and expectations before modifying the system bars, since they give users a standard way of navigating a device and viewing its status.

It's best to follow the official platform guidelines. They do both allow hiding these bars, but they suggest to only do this with immersive apps. In other words, you shouldn't be looking for reasons to display the status bar ("is it important for users to know the time"), but rather you should assume that it best be displayed, unless you can find a compelling reason to hide it (e.g. "it's crucial that the app gets the undivided attention of the user").

BTW, with regard to important stuff located in the status bar - the time and signal strength may not be as important as incoming notifications and especially the battery level.

  • Probably not the answer I would have wanted to hear, but hey, I am not the end user, so I guess I'll leave the status bar just where it is ;-). Thanks Vitaly. – the_critic Dec 30 '14 at 11:09
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Is this something you can just turn into a user setting? Allow users themselves to determine whether they need to see the status bar or not. You can default to leaving it visible. Power user types that look through your settings will see the option to make it full screen and can use it at their own discretion. I can see valid reasons for both use cases. So unless you have access to a massive survey of all of your users and the numbers are something like 90/10 one way, then I think you'd be better off leaving it up to the user.

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It all depends on the use case. Being able not to see the time and connectivity means that the user would have to go out of the app to check the time and this would be considered bad.

However when you're reading (facebook paper for instance) you are most likely not in a situation where seeing the time is very important, so hiding the status bar makes sense there.

When deciding this you need to know the 3 most common use cases of your app and decide whether it would be significantly annoying to hide the status bar.

  • I would also suggest to consider that the status bar on iOS host the network activity indicator that could be used for a light feedback of app operation if it does not implement some other and more explicit feedback. – mxb Dec 29 '14 at 15:11
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Yes, you can hide/unhide it. But mainly it goes with the application design. You can even change the color of the status bar from black to white and vice-versa (depending on the theme of your app colors).

If it hinders in your app view and doesnt look good, you can omit it. If user wants to see the status bar than it can be easily accessed by using the notifications from the top of the screen.

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From an aesthetic perspective, I can totally relate with the status bar taking up precious real-estate and causing problems.

Especially so I find with mobile games where, the whole point is to create an immersive experience - this clashes directly with the reasons I often find myself playing games: to kill time while waiting for a meeting, a bus, a flight etc... where knowing what time it is can be quite important.

Personally, I try to keep the status bar involved as much as possible, but some criteria to consider could be:

  • How immersive is the experience you are trying to create? Are there specific screens that would benefit from that extra real-estate?
  • Are there "short visit" screens you could hide it on? For example, hiding the status bar while the user completes an action that is brief and important to them
  • Will you have control over the background behind the status bar? For things like user-generated images, you may end up clashing with the color of the status bar anyway...
    • Does the experience require an internet connection? Obviously you could flag a problem with the connection in-app in other ways, but the status bar helps users preemptively determine whether they should try to take an action or make a call that requires connectivity.

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