How to Organize Your Homescreen

I had to do a restore on my iPhone recently, and in the process all of my apps got knocked all over the place and I had to reorganize. Being the OCD kinda guy that I am, it took me quite a bit of time to make sure that everything was put in its most optimal location, and after an hour or so of futzing with the interface, I got things good to go.

And then I used it. After a week or so I realized that there are two types of apps out there that sit on my homescreen and every other page: Ones I use, and ones I think I use. Ever run into that problem? So to maximize my layout, I decided to play around with a few different techniques and methods, each of which with their own advantages and disadvantages. If you’re a bit OCD like myself (or just curious), hit the jump and we’ll talk it out.

Determining the Problem

Like any good detective, the first step is to determine what the problem actually is. For me, that just meant unlocking my iPhone and taking a look.

The starting point

The starting point

After seeing all of our reader’s homescreens a few weeks back, it gave me a few good ideas on apps to pick up, as well as some organization tips. A quick assessment of what I have on my home screen tells me what I need to know:

  • Top row: I use these all the time. I’ve debated getting rid of Fahrenheit and going with Outside, but I haven’t made that plunge yet.
  • Second row: I use SiriusXM, Camera and Photos daily, but I haven’t used Capture since I bought it. I think it’s there because I want to use it more, but the whole point is that it’s easily accessible when I need it. I just never end up needing it.
  • Third row: Music is daily, and At Bat 11 is as well, but TomTom USA and LightTrac just aren’t daily requirements. They’re there mainly so I don’t forget I have them, and because I figure they will come in handy sometime.
  • Fourth row: Daily use, all the way through.
  • Fifth row: Same as above, these are all apps I use every day. I could get rid of Safari in the home bar, but that’s about it.

Cleaning It All Out

To start, I went ahead and removed all of the apps that I knew didn’t belong on my homescreen, which left me with three empty slots across the bottom. Now the issue was, what do I replace them with?

To move the icons on your homescreen, simply hold your finger down on any of the apps until it starts to wiggle. Tap on the X to delete the app, or just hold your finger on the icon and move it around the screen. When you’re done, push the home button and everything will stay in place.

What I had to do next was figure out what apps I actually use on a day-to-day basis, and not just the ones that I think I use. The first step was to pull up the multitasking area and see what apps were not only open, but used recently. In my case, it was pretty much all of my remaining homescreen apps, and then a few randoms. AP Stylebook, IMDB and Calculator were there, which gave me pause. Do I really use these every day?

The next few days I spent writing down any app I used that wasn’t on my homescreen. This may sound tedious, but it was as simple as keeping a Notes file available, which isn’t a big deal at all. Turns out that I do pull up the AP Stylebook an awful lot, and IMDB seems to come up more on the weekends (when I tend to watch movies). As for the Calculator, I use it all the time, but since it’s not a fancy app I’ve often just pushed it to the background, forcing me to swipe through and find it time after time.

Additional Apps

As I said before, there are apps I use, and apps I think I use. But there’s also a third category, which is apps I’d use more if I remembered I had them. Often times an app will go into a folder for organizational purposes, just to get lost in the mist with the rest of them. With only three empty spots on my home screen, I had to make some tough choices and figure out what made sense. Here’s where I ended up:

Stage 2

Stage 2

Savvy viewers will notice that there are a few changes here. First off, I decided to pull the trigger and buy Outside. Then I moved Safari off the home page and onto page 2, because after some thought I realized that I don’t use it that much. I also added Instagram to the page, which is one of those third category apps. After moving AP Stylebook, Calculator and App Store to the home page, I was full and ready to start sorting.

The Perimeter Method

While doing the homescreen roundup, I learned that lots of people put their apps in specific places based on the way they hold their phone. It seems to be easier to hit an app that’s located around the perimeter of the screen than in the middle (although the difference is negligible), so one train of thought is that if you put those important or more frequently used apps around the edges, you’ll find them easier to access. By doing that, I ended up with this:

Using the perimeter method.

Using the perimeter method.

Everything is fairly accessible, and all of the important bits are on the dock where they should be. The disadvantage is that the apps that are closest to your dominant hand’s thumb are a bit more difficult to reach, and there is no logic to how the apps themselves get sorted out other than by usage. If you like everything that’s the same in one bucket, this may not be the option for you.

The Folder Method

Since you can’t dictate exactly where each icon will land to create a pattern, some people choose to put everything in a folder on the dock. This way, everything is still accessible, but the home screen is nice and clear to show off that fancy wallpaper. By trying that, this is what my homescreen looked like:

One maxed out folder.

One maxed out folder.

Want to put your apps in folders? Hold your finger on an app until it starts to wiggle, then drag it on top of another app with your finger. When a box appears, drop the app in the box and you’ve got a folder!

Although this does give you a cleaner look, you still have five apps on the screen, assuming you’re working with the same 20 apps you started with like I did. To fix that, you need two folders in the dock:

The minimalist look.

The minimalist look.

If you’re the type of person who wants an image of a person for their wallpaper, this is probably your optimal layout. Your homescreen will now always show the picture as clear as possible, and you still have access to all of your favorite apps, albeit with an extra tap or two. On the downside, anything in those folders now takes an extra tap to access. Is the picture more important than accessibility? That’s your call.

The Combo Platter

What I ended up choosing was a combination package. It’s a little bit of both methods, and the result is a clean homescreen that’s simple to work with, yet all of the important apps are easy to get to at all times.

The final result.

The final result.

Closing Thoughts

Want some more inspiration? You can always check out our previous homescreen roundup to see what readers like you are doing on their homescreens, or you can check out First & 20, a site with other people’s home screens for their iPads and iPhones.

How do you organize your apps? Let us know in the comments.