iOS9 was released on September 16th and whilst the release didn’t hit the headlines as much as previous years it did include a number of features designed to improve the user experience of the mobile operating system. For the past few weeks we’ve been readying an update to the Propertynews iOS app to support two of these new features.
Probably one of the most useful features of iOS9 is support for universal deep linking within apps. Now, for example, when you click a link in Mail it opens a web browser and pops a small ‘Back to Mail’ link in the upper left hand corner of the screen where the signal strength indicator is usually located. This may seem like a small feature in it’s own right but it’s a massive step towards improving inter-app communication on iOS. When the original iPhone launched apps were completely sandboxed and communication between them just didn’t happen. In more recent releases of iOS we’ve seen a shift towards integration between apps and in iOS 8 Apple introduced App Extensions which provide a new method of interacting with your app without the app being visible on screen.
For propertynews this is a fantastic feature which provides seamless integration between the website and app. Now when you visit a link to a property from Safari the app intercepts this request and a toolbar is displayed at the top of the screen providing the option to open in the propertynews app. If you choose this option the property listing opens in the app and displays two links at the top of the navigation bar for ‘Back to Safari’ and ‘propertynews.com’. The former simply takes you back to the last screen you were on and the latter opens the property listing on propertynews.com in mobile Safari. Whatever method you choose for viewing the property will be set as your default preference.
Multitasking on iPad
Another great UX feature Apple introduced in iOS9 is Multitasking. It allows users to have two apps running on screen at the same time in one of three modes:
- Split View – Apps run side by side in the same view
- Slide Over – An overlay view on the right hand side of the screen provides limited functionality between apps
- Picture in Picture – A video can be played in it’s own floating window
When we looked at the user experience of propertynews on the iPad we identified a number of points along the way where a user could potentially jump out of the app to interact with another app. For example, copying a property description to send in an email, sharing images via text message or checking out the Google Street View of a house they like. When we heard multitasking was being introduced we jumped at the chance to pitch it to propertynews as a worthwhile improvement to the app.
One important aspect of multitasking is adaptive layout. Much like the trend in web design, iOS developers have had to cope with an expanding range of screen sizes and resolutions over the past few years. Auto layout and size classes provide some of the plumbing you need to deal with a UI that needs to adapt to different widths and heights of the viewport but it requires careful consideration and forward planning to provide a seamless experience for the user.
Both deep linking and multitasking are fantastic features that we think really improve the user experience of the propertynews platform. You can download the most recent version of the Propertynews iOS app from the app store.