What to Do with Homescreens

Betaworks has a new, simple app called #Homescreen that lets you share screengrabs of your phone’s homescreen. The ostensible purpose of the app is to satisfy broad curiosity about what people put on the default screen of their phones, but Betaworks is actually doing this to better understand the broader trends behind this very personal customization activity that neither Apple nor Google provide insight into.

Once uploaded, the screens can be seen at the domain homescreen.is, and behind the scenes Betaworks is analyzing them for patterns. CEO John Borthwick wrote about this in this Medium post, and you can see Betaworks’ dynamically generated homescreen of the top apps here. My contribution is located here, though the site doesn’t seem to know what to do with the frankly ridiculous scale of my iPhone 6 Plus. So I thought I’d share it here on my blog where, thanks again to the 6 Plus’s unique landscape mode, it fits nicely inline with this text.

My iPhone 6 Plus Homescreen

#Homescreen reminds me that for a long time I’ve thought that there’s a very interesting app to be made from mobile screen shots—an app that could produce a powerful design reference that we don’t have today. What I have in mind is a mobile app that lets you take screen shots of not just your homescreen but of any app. By uploading those screengrabs, you’re effectively building an index of user interface designs, documenting how these apps that we use constantly are changing.

This would be a kind of Archive.org for mobile, and though we have some enterprising projects that are similar (like UX Archive), with the right social incentives in place, we could have countless people documenting countless apps daily. This would give us visibility into a kind of evolution that has become more difficult to observe and document now that both major mobile platforms install updates automatically. What a fantastic resource that could be for understanding the arc of our craft, giving us a new understanding of the life cycle of the design of digital products. #Homescreen is not trying to be that, but its basic infrastructure wouldn’t be too difficult to emulate and adapt, theoretically. Anyone?