People do use Add to Home Screen

An iPhone in hand with the thumb near the Add to Home Screen item in the share menu.Last week Apple added a bunch of capabilities for web apps added to an iPhone or iPad home screen. This includes the ability for 3rd party browsers, like Firefox, to offer Add to Home Screen from the share menu and to open home screen bookmarks if it’s the default browser. I’d love to see us add this to our iOS app. It looks like a contributor did some investigation and this might be easy.

As I was reading about this news I saw that the commentary around it repeated an often heard assumption that says, as Jeremy Keith puts it, it’s a “fact that adding a website to the home screen remains such a hidden feature that even power users would be forgiven for not knowing about it.” No one ever seems to cite a study that shows this. I always see this written as if it is indeed a statement of fact. But it just so happens that recently we were testing some prototypes on iOS (unrelated to web apps) and we needed participants to add them their home screens. Of the ten people we talked to, four were familiar with this flow and had saved various things this way. When I mentioned this to others on the UX team a few shared similar stories.

So four of ten people in a user test – what does that tell us? It tells us that it’s something that at least some regular people do and that it’s not a hidden power user feature. More than that, it’s a good reminder to check your assumptions.

4 comments on “People do use Add to Home Screen”

  1. Bramus wrote on

    Is there more info available on the user test itself? We know it was with a tiny group of 10 people, but I’m wondering what their personas are (tech savvy vs. not tech savvy) and also would like to know what was the exact question/instruction was.

    For reference I ran a “study” with my father, brother, sister-in-law, oldest son, and my partner and instructed them with “Now install this website”. They all gave me “the stare” in response, shifting the results of this study quite a bit.

    1. the hatter wrote on

      Maybe your phrasing is puzzling. As a geek (but not any kind of mobile browser power user) I’d probably try ‘add a shortcut to the desktop’ (assuming they’ve been computer users at some point) or keeping more in the mobile vocabulary, to their home screen. FWIW I’ve added a few blank tile’ shortcuts to my home screen from safari just for layout, not use, and one actual site link from firefox which I installed only to access a couple of sites that don’t behave great under safari. My main desktop browser is neither firefox nor safari, and I don’t think I’ve ever added a shortcut to my desktop, but I’ve done so on my non-geeky parents laptop to open their email and similar frequently used sites.

  2. webketje wrote on

    It’s a shame that phone and browser vendors do not feature the “Add to Homescreen” feature more prominently. Its absence nourishes the belief that one needs a specific app for every service to get the full experience, whereas a simple PWA would do just as well.

  3. Alex Moore wrote on

    4 out of 10 is terrible even if we take the data at face value. That means the majority of people have no idea how to install a Web App.

    Web Apps have failed on mobile while Native is now worth well over $100 billion USD. That failure is a joint responsibility from everyone who works on the web, for not making Web Apps competitive and not fighting to remove anti-competitive self-preferencing.

    While developers are given the opportunity to create custom interfaces to start the Native App install flow, the web is hidden away on share menu below the fold.