New Blog Post: Anatomy Of A Great iOS App

Some of you will enjoy my new blog post: Anatomy Of A Great iOS App.

I’ve deliberately left it “bare bones” and with plenty of room for “arguability”. :slight_smile:

Discussion probably best here - though comments on the post itself welcome.

Nice posting. Thank you. For me I would definitely want to include:

  • Good: “share extensions – input from other apps, and export to other apps – in line with whatever data model the ‘great iOS app’ in question is built to support”.’
  • Better: “Document Provider support – so files can be opened (via Files), edited, and saved by other apps without having to round-trip them via Open In, or, worse, editing copies rather than the ‘original’”
  • Best: “UI/UX design consistency with sibling apps on other platforms (macOS, web, Windows – whichever are offered) – to maintain look and feel, features, usability to the extent possible given platform and API limitations”

I assume “cross-platform syncing” in your list is Handoff?

I’d have to think about what apps fall into the Good, Better and Best categories. Of course, this implies a “Worst” category for complete failures :smiling_imp:


I would add:


  • Drag and Drop support on the iPad (I think this is pretty basic, not a stretch feature)
  • If you’re an app that includes text entry, support Markdown
  • Sustainable business model


  • Both iOS and Mac versions of your app
  • Extensive keyboard shortcuts
  • Apple Pencil support


  • iOS and Mac versions are fully native and good citizens on both platforms (the iOS app shouldn’t feel like a port of the Mac app and vice versa).
  • Handoff support
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I also read the “Day One support” link in your post.

Funny enough it took me quite some time to realize you meant the day a new OS is released and not the journaling App with the same name…


Good additions, @ChrisUpchurch. And I told y’all it was arguable which category any given attribute belonge in.

Clearly, for example, you use Drag and Drop much more than I do.

Yes, sorry about that. But then the other “half” of my audience wouldn’t know Day One if it hit them over the head. :slight_smile:

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While I do use it, I wouldn’t say I’m a real heavy user of drag and drop. It’s more that if an app doesn’t support a major iOS feature more than a year after it came out, I don’t know that it can really be called a “Good” iOS app.


I’m inclined to agree with you.

You also raise some good points, @anon41602260.

With “cross platform syncing” I was thinking of what Drafts does - as an example. (I think iThoughts is pretty similar, though Drafts is transparent in this.)

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It’s occurred to me we might have the makings of a “build quality” scorecard for an app. It might start as only “Good” but the developer might be goaded into progressing towards “Best”. Similarly, to earn “Good” a developer might be goaded.

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Ah, yes. So then I’d add Handoff to “Better” or maybe “Best” – it’s definitely a nice-to-have but not essential.

Interesting Here’s my take on it. Not sure about beter. for me there are acceptable and outstanding so good and best categories only :slight_smile:

iCloud and Dropbox syncing
robust and easy ways to change the size of text and displays
integration with a desktop version that supports full manipulations on both platforms

Support for and instructions on how to set up syncing with WebDAV and other personal sync services
Frequent bug fixes
Standard data structures (like SQLite) that I cn manipulate myself and access from other apps
Integration with GIT for versioning support for data (both hosted like GITLab and user level GIT systems)
ability to create user defined skins or color schemes for critical user interface features
support for scripting or automation to make routine tasks a function

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Is that an accessibility thing? Or aesthetic?

Both sort of. Take Omnifocus for example, I use a version that is more like the old rev 1 colors with the entire text of next actions in purple. It’s easy to see and stands out for me. It makes it faster and easier to interact with my lists so makes the more accessible. As things are within my limit of time for due they are totally orange and when overdue totally red. I don’t use much color to hghlight stuff but when I do it’s very important for me.

I don’t like dark mode in any apps either for the same reason. I cannot focus on colored text within a dark background so I need to be able to change it easily.

Many of the newer fonts are nearly impossible to see on screen for me unless in bold style or a larger font size. I’d rather just change the font back to somethingn I can read. That’s a function of age and terrible eyesight, with bifocal contacts plus special computer reading glasses being the norm. I actually have 2 different pairs of readers, one for computer work and one for actual reading.

I lso think a lot fo the newer styles in apps, with lots of wasted white space and tiny interface buttons look bad as well. I grew up on old text monitors, I like dense informationa nd I hate wasted space in a design. That’s a personal prefernce issue.

As someone who uses 3270 Terminal Emulation on an almost daily basis (so a few colours on black with not very nice fonts) and with Occupational Varifocal lens glasses I can relate to this.

However, I do find Dark Mode - done right - accessible and pleasing. YMMV1.

A11y - to me - is much more important than aesthetics. Others might differ in that view. Which reinforces my take that rankings and categorisations - such as I attempted - are subjective.

1. Your mileage may vary.