iOS UI: Choosing between Pickers and Table Views

Pickers and table views are great ways to provide your user with an easier way to enter data in your app – and they allow you to control the input you receive so you get less garbage. A few days ago, I had a one-on-one coaching session with a client who wanted some advice on whether to use a picker or a table view for various data types in his app.

When you’re trying to decide between a picker or a table view, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is there a large number of unfamiliar options to choose from? Remember that in a picker, the user can only see about 6 rows of options, so if they don’t know what’s in your picker, they’ll have to scroll through everything (fairly slowly) to find out what their options are.
  2. Should your users have to navigate to another screen, or should they stay on the current screen? Pickers should generally be displayed inline with your content, whereas a table view should generally have its own screen. If you don’t want the user to have to navigate to another screen, a picker might be more appropriate.

I’d argue that the first question is most important: figure out how many options you’ll have and whether your users will be familiar with those options. If there are a lot of unfamiliar options, consider using a table view on a screen by itself. If there are only a few options, or the data is familiar to the user, consider using an inline picker.

Much of this comes from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, which you should definitely read if you have other questions like this.

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