Containing Child View Controllers in iOS Apps

Place a ViewController in another

Difficulty: Beginner | Easy | Normal | Challenging
This article has been developed using Xcode 12.4, and Swift 5.3.2

There are many reasons that you might wish to reduce the amount of code and complexity contained within any particular view controller.

One approach that you should have in your amoury is that of splitting a view controller into mutliple smaller ones — but we should be careful of HOW we do tht in order to avoid just moving code around and instead put code into more sensible homes.

this article, hopefully, can help you out

If you would like to download the repo, it’s right HERE. The supporting video is right HERE for you.



  • UIViewController: A view controller is an intermediary between the views it manages and the data of your app
  • UIView: Presents information to the user. Views are, well, UIViews and their subclasses. Think of it as the UI components that have to be controlled by the controller

But why?

You might want to add a view controller as a subviewcontroller in order to avoid the “Massive View Controller” problem that can arise from having a view controller perofrming too many responsibilities.

Now it can be argued that we can do much of this with a sub UIView, and this is a valid comment. However, a viewcontroller explicity has the viewDidLoad and viewWillAppear lifecycle functions, and of course itself can have sub UIView components.

Also a child view controller needs no constraints (or the frame to be set), as it will fill the avaliable space! Awesome!

The reusability of a UIViewController as a child is very flexibile, especially since it can be used in any situation any UIViewController might be used in. That is, using a UIViewController helps you create modular code!

Example: A ViewController to represent loading

If you wish to reuse a ViewController in many places within your App, you might use a child view controller. This enables us to have a modular UI, and one where the SpinnerViewController can be used as a child view as well as a full view controller in it’s own right.

You might set up a view controller that contains a spinner, to indicate that something is being loaded. Rather than using a real network call, here I can use DispatchQueue.main.asyncAfter to wait for 2 seconds, and then remove the loading view controller:

the child view controller (with an added spinner) will look something like the following:

Example: A portion of the screen

In my Deezer music App demo I used a music player that can appear from the bottom of the screen when music is played. Wonderful! Now, we can expand this into being it’s own UIViewController.

So if you wished to have such functionality, you could take the modular approach and swap out a music player (or video player) while keeping the rest of the interface unchanged.

One of the nicest ways of doing that is using a container view on the Storyboard. To do so, select the storyboard and the + on the right-hand corner of the screen. Then search for container — and then drag and drop this onto the view controller:

I’ve then added constraints to put the view controller centered (X & Y) onto the view controller, and I’ve set up a height and width of 240 * 120. If you would like a guide on constraints take a look at this one.

We can then select the container class, and choose a custom class for it (I’ve chosen my MusicPlayerViewController class).

Speaking of which, I’ve created a rather basic view controller with a single simple button that the user is able to tap.

Flexible? Well you could add instances of this MusicPlayerViewController wherever you would like. That is all kinds of awesome!


Child view controllers are a good tool to leverage modularity in iOS applications. This will help you with scaling your Apps, and stopping duplicating code unnecessarily which is really important (obs).

In any case, I hope this article has helped you out and you’ve enjoyed reading it!

If you’ve any questions, comments or suggestions please hit me up on Twitter

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