How to Organize Your iPhone’s Home Screen

A screen shot of someone else's Home Screen

Apps reflect on the user

Being the kind of designer that I am, perhaps I’m more concerned with the aesthetics than the functionality, as many accuse me of. My blog has taken a different path from mainstream websites in the typical look-and-feel. While typically a good blog incorporates a lot of prime colors and an overwhelming appreciation for white spaces, I’ve tried to counter those with loads of earthen green and selective white spaces.

It’s this sort of intentionality that I put into all that I use regularly. Which leads me to another point of organization, usability, and aesthetic awareness: my iPhone’s Home Screen. I have always been a conscientious Mac user; organizing and re-organizing to keep stuff straight and well-archived. But what about my iDevices’ Home Screens?

Home Screen App Profiling

MacSparky (David Sparks) has showcased various users’ Home Screens over the last year or so. The Home Screens he’s shown from various iPhone users always come in an article where the user explains their rational for the iPhone’s app order; why do users have certain apps on the Home Screen while other apps are further away from the Home Screen on another Springboard (Apple generally calls the additional Home Screens with extra apps “Springboards,” if you didn’t know).

One very insightful and self-aware iPhone user David showcased on his blog some time ago[1] made several good points about organizing apps that I had not before considered:

  • Keep apps together by related kinds.
  • Put most used apps on the Home Screen.
  • Organize apps into bins only when it’s helpful

These were well-and-good points, but there was one more that seemed a little crazed, and designer-centric:

  • Order the apps by color connections.

I thought this was strange, but the user made a good case for it. He argued that color associations help us find the apps we’re looking for. For instance, when you have several blue-ish apps in a row, you generally will look to that cluster to find the Safari and Facebook apps. It’s a basic instinct.

Crazy Enough That It Might Work

I didn’t know what I thought about the idea when I first read it. I didn’t think it would apply to the iPad much, and by clustering colors together I would be breaking up related kinds of apps. I figured that not all my blue icons, red icons, and the like were related to each other. Initially, I prefered the idea of clustering related apps together.

But as the months wore on I found myself giving the odd notion further consideration when I found myself frustrated by my limited memory. I would meticulously order the apps by their associations of ‘kind,’ then forget on which Springboard that collection was on.

A screen shot of Joseph's homescreen

This is my Home Screen

This is Joseph's only Springboard

This is my extra Springboard

So I gave color-coding a go on my iPhone. In my case, I found the color organization does help surprisingly well; helping me to remember better where I keep certain apps based on the colors that are unique to each Springboard.

I’m not talking about solid-colored icons, of course. I don’t think there are any that are just one color with no iconography on them. Just about all icons have two or more colors or shades of a color in them. But because 1Password, Safari, Tweetbot, and Weather app are all blue, they are all connected. On the bottom of my Springboard, the row of Bins are connected in two ways: they are all Bins, and they are all generally darker and multi-colored.

In the end, I came to the same conclusion that the user on MacSparky found. a combination of the four principles of good order on an iPhone’s screen come together and mesh rather well:

  • Keep apps together by related kinds.
  • Put most used apps on the Home Screen.
  • Organize apps into bins only when it’s helpful
  • Order the apps by color connections.

When it comes right down to it, the Home Screen is one of the most personal reflections of our personalities. Much in the same way Walter Isaacson explained how insightful it can be to review the music albums Steve Jobs had in his iPod, it is just as revealing to know which apps someone uses and how they are organized on the Home Screen.


  1. I can’t remember who the user was, and since has had many users profiled, if you want to figure out who it was, knock yourself out here.