I'm building an iPhone app but I'm torn which type of refresh UI to use.

I understand that pull down to refresh makes sense when you have things being added to the top of a list like twitter feeds. A refresh button would make more sense in a fixed number of items that needs refreshing.

Should I forget the pull down and stick with a refresh button across all screen for consistency?

  • you should also consider always refreshing without user action, taking care so the screen does not scroll, and probably have an unobtrusive screen element to notify that there is a new item.
    – Lie Ryan
    Aug 12, 2011 at 10:41
  • 1
    Keep in mind that not everyone wants to pay for the data plan to have constant refreshing. Options to disable any auto-refreshing should exist. Aug 12, 2011 at 11:15

1 Answer 1


Consider a pull-down-to-refresh gesture for any updateable content that it's already possible to scroll vertically through which sorts items in reverse chronological order. Examples:

  • Content feeds (twitter, RSS)
  • Inboxes (email, SMS etc)

That's probably the only appropriate use case. For a vertical scrolling tableview that sorts items in chronological order (oldest first), you would be better off using a refresh button, because pulling down to append items at the bottom of a list would be awkward, as might a pull-up-to-refresh gesture.

Consider a refresh button when the thing(s) being refreshed are single interface items or widgets, or when list items are sorted in chronological order. Examples:

  • A single web page in a browser application.
  • A weather widget.

Consider no refresh button (or automated refresh in addition to a button) whenever the thing to be refreshed becomes stale within the space of a minute or less. Examples:

  • Live stock data/charts.
  • Server/background process monitoring.
  • Auction reporting.
  • thanks! but what if you have both types of list in one app. Do you feel that it's ok to have two different ways to refresh (one on each list) or for the sake of consistency use a button for both?
    – Jay Q.
    Aug 12, 2011 at 23:53
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    @Jay Q. Generally, I would suggest standardising them when you can. It's OK to have a 'pull to refresh' action in addition to a refresh button if you're using a refresh button elsewhere because, for users who have come to expect the behaviour, it will be a welcome addition. And users who don't know if it will still have a way to refresh the page that's standardised across all screens.
    – Nick
    Aug 14, 2011 at 13:22

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