The iPad has taken the world by storm, selling 300,000 copies its first day and as many as 750,000 in its first half week on the market. Thousands of early adopters waited for hours outside Best Buys and Apple Stores across the country just to get their hands on an iPad as soon as possible.
While the new device’s launch has been peppered with connectivity problems, it’s definitely a game changer in the technology world. Aside from making a nice salsa, the iPad represents the latest and greatest user-friendly tablet technology, making media more accessible than ever before.
And yes, it blends.
But the iPad also represents a sea change in the web and application development world. Websites and apps that have been optimized for the iPhone’s 3.5 inch screen seem to be gobbled up by the iPad’s 9.7 inch screen.
Programmers and developers are changing the way they optimize sites and develop apps for mobility, which can be easier said than done.
The iPad’s Facebook app has a lot of catching up to do. The difference in screen size from the iPhone screen the app was originally designed for means a lot of unused real estate right now. Instead of the Facebook app taking up the entire iPad screen, it is limited to an area the size of the iPhone’s smaller screen, leaving a dead zone around the edges.
Like all iPhone apps running on the iPad, if you choose to use the app in doubled-up full screen mode, when you look at status updates or really any text on Facebook the words looks distorted and messy. Now, you can always just log onto the internet directly and view Facebook that way, but the whole point behind iPhones and iPads has always been convenience and a tailored interface and it’s much easier to just tap an icon on the main screen.
Optimizing an app for the iPad’s larger screen means ensuring every inch of the screen is utilized to the best of the device’s ability, but the app itself can also be laid out differently. The Marvel Comics app is absolutely beautiful. There is an iPhone version, but the iPad version is much more impressive and the features have been tweaked for the iPad.
The new app is tailored for the physical attributes of the iPad, allowing for more robust swipes and taps across the larger screen. Viewing your library of comics, as well as browsing the Marvel store is not only easier on the iPad, but much more visually impressive.
NPR rocks the pad
The NPR app on the iPad is one of the most exciting examples of iPad optimization that I have seen so far. The iPad app behaves nothing like any other version of NPR that you have seen before and it’s literally hands-on. It allows you to scan multiple articles, videos and podcasts while reading an article or listening to your local station. You can even build a custom playlist of NPR content like Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and Car Talk to listen to in the background.
NPR’s website looks static by comparison. The iPad app takes full advantage of the larger screen, separating everything into three rolling feeds that you can easily scroll through. The designers have incorporated all of the iPad’s functionality, allowing for quick fingertip browsing. With this interface, only possible on the iPad, the act of consuming news, media, or entertainment is done with your hands and fingertips; you can literally just grab what you want.
Every app designed for the iPad or optimized from its iPhone version should look at what NPR and Marvel have done right out of the box. Having a fully functioning app ready to go on day one can mean the difference between thousands of sales and dozens while you play catch up.
Making a website look good on a mobile device mostly involves scaling down an existing site and choosing what features or services a visitor will most likely need to access on the go. It’s about choosing what’s only essential both in terms of content and design. An iPhone app operates along much the same lines, relying heavily on the features most suited for the devices particular uses.
Creating apps for the iPad presents a new challenge for designers. iPad apps are different from the web or desktop apps in that you perform gestures with your fingers. But the iPad is also different from the iPhone since you can display more, lay things differently and use gestures in a way that didn’t really make sense on the small screen but are perfect for a larger screen.
To go back to the NPR app, it’s a design that’s too big and complex for the iPhone, but also wouldn’t feel as natural to use or make as much sense with a keyboard and mouse. The challenge for designers and developers now is they’ll need to step up their game and be creative and innovative in new ways. The advantage is that, even if sales slow down and usage diminishes, which doesn’t seem even remotely likely, touch screen tablets are the wave of the future.
With nearly every other software company either already selling or developing an “iPad killer” tablet, it seems clear that touch screens are here to stay. All websites will soon have to offer innovate touch screen experiences for tablet users in order to stay viable.
The question is how can your business cash in on this emerging trend? Investing in large touchscreen apps and sites is an investment in the future of how consumers will interact with media-with their hands.