Today Widget Enhancements in iOS 10

Written by: on September 13, 2016

In 2014, alongside iOS 8, Apple introduced us to Today Extensions, or as we will refer to them from here on out, widgets. Widgets offer quick, glanceable interactions with your app’s data. The biggest problem, however, has been discoverability and adoption by users, making it hard to justify spending the time to break out pieces of your app for something that won’t even be used. The more steps a user has to take to enable functionality for your app, the less likely they are to use it. This has unfortunately been the story thus far even though widgets are a great way to readily show users how your app benefits them throughout the day.

With iOS 10, Apple is bringing a lot of changes to the table in order to make widgets more compelling and worth investing time and resources into. We are now being provided with a compact size that all widgets will have to adhere to. This new compact size is roughly the size of two and a half table view rows and will place an even higher priority on glanceable content. As mentioned before, adoption has been quite difficult for widgets but with iOS 10, users will now be able to 3D touch on the app’s icon and be presented with the compact view of the widget. In addition to that, they will also be given an option to tap “Add Widget,” immediately adding it to their Today View.

Compact iOS 10 Widget Example

Implementing Widgets

The steps to ensure that you are updated and ready for iOS 10’s widgets are quite simple:

  1. Update any layouts you have already for your widget; you don’t want it to look strange to a user as the compact size is now your default
  2. Build with the iOS 10 SDK
  3. All done!

Users are quite unlikely to be spending a lot of time in their today view, so you must take steps to ensure your widget is quickly presented, straightforward, and simple to interact with. While you are at it, take advantage of the additional new features as widgets now support video, graphical updates and more!

As always, Apple has been quick to lay out some guidelines that we should all be following when putting together our widget gameplan, which you can find here. A few key takeaways from their guidelines are:

  • Focus on an adaptive layout—This is a ubiquitous theme throughout any iOS development process, but it rings true more than ever with widgets because of the limited space you are provide.
  • Let the widget handle what it does best—Apple states to never use a photo as a background as it may clash with a user’s lock/home wallpapers. Use dark font colors if you are using the system provided blurred background as this will increase legibility for your users.
  • Nobody wants to use a widget that is disconnected from its parent app; take some time to brainstorm on how to make interactions between the two seamless.

This article is part of our Welcome to iOS 10 series.

Josh Woods

Josh Woods

Josh Woods is a Developer at POSSIBLE Mobile. When not developing native apps for Apple, you can find him playing with his dog, playing guitar or catching a movie at the nearest movie theater.

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