Doug Garnett’s Blog


My iPad – Post 6 – App Developers: Raise the Bar

Uh oh. Someone published an article telling me Flatland has big problems. It does?

Here’s the scoop. A group recently tested the iPad among certain potential users and published their thoughts in iPad Usability: First Findings from User Testing. I can’t vouch for this research method but they chose a long list of apps which they forced people to use (most of which I’ve never cared to use).

I think they very accurately identified some things that need to evolve on the iPad. Unfortunately, they should be more careful in their write-up: The issues primarily surround raising the bar for iPad apps.

Primarily, iPad apps need a better set of “common practices” — i.e. a clear visual language across all apps so that the user knows what they can do at ANY point in time.

In part this is a result of the fact that the iPad is a radical change. This same issue is found in the early days of any visual interface. We saw it with GUI interfaces (yes, I’m that old) and the early internet.

It also comes because app developers need to change their expectations – this isn’t just a big iPod Touch. The screen size raises expectations dramatically among users.

Let me use the WordPress app as one example. It was developed here in Portland under very limited schedules. It’s great in many, many ways and WILL BE superb. But today, you can’t cut, copy, or paste text.

Huh? They compromised and released an edit based app with no edit functions? If it was on my iPhone I wouldn’t care because I’d only be writing single paragraph blurbs. But, I will use my iPad for much more. So I demand more.

It appears app developers put much of their bar raising purely into their cool graphics. Nice. But they need to deliver an experience that leverages the iPad’s potential.

I fully disagree with the study in two major areas: They suggest the tab bar is too small. If this turns into a “Big Chief iTablet” I will send it back (the EA Scrabble app already verges upon this).

I also disagree with their comments on selecting small sized buttons – which I’m naturally selecting with 100% accuracy despite large fingers.

But if you sit back, there’s an interesting & useful truth in their critique: size is everything when it comes to ability and expectations for mobile devices. Apple has clearly gone beyond merely making an oversized iPod touch. Now app developers (led by Apple) need to integrate that reality into their apps.

Copyright 2010. Doug Garnett

Categories:   Communication, Digital/On-line, Human Tech, iPad Experiences, Research & Attribution, Technology Advertising