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How the iPad Changes Design

Posted on Feb 5, 2010 by in Company Thoughts | 0 comments

Apple iPad

A lot has been said about the iPad. In fact, I’ve said a lot about the iPad. The delayed shipment tactic is working right into the hands of Apple. Those that criticized are warming up to the idea and those that immediately loved it are champing at the bit.

I’m not concerned with its sales but I’m concerned with who will buy one and how that will change things. Specifically by “things” I mean how I will design sites if the iPad becomes popular.

To start, a design must be clean. With all the scrolling, pinching and double-clicking necessary to navigate the web through the Pad’s interface, blocks (Divs) must be clear and spaced well for accuracy. This is something I’ve already started doing.

Another part of this is simple, quickly rendered code. Too often the sizes of images or other content is ignored but the rendering, no matter how fast first-hands-on users claim, will be slower. Designers must address this lag by making pages smaller and decrease load times.

Flash, until something fundamental changes, is off limits. Until HTML5 is more heavily adopted (read: IE) or Adobe and Apple concede, the functionality of Flash has no use on the iPad. This is disappointing but only means different choices, not limited choices.

Designers must stay away from some drop-down menus. Sites that use drop-downs cannot link the first, or visible, element. Using the “#” link enables the mobile Safari to show the drop-down list, leaving it on screen until something is clicked, but linked elements jump to new pages. Drop-down menus are popular and useful but not if those hidden links are never shown.

People will likely adopt this new form of no-hassle, simplified computing. The lower price, diverse application and portability makes for a large market. Many will keep their desktop but enjoy the flexibility of a handheld device.

Tablets will be released from other brands soon. Their interfaces may be similar; some may improve on the iPad and many will fall far short. Generally, they may be popular or meet the needs of only a niche market, depending.

In any case, the death of the mouse, the shrinking of machines and reduction speeds necessitates changes in how sites work and how users interact with them. We will need to make small but significant changes as less technically savvy users move from desktops to a growing number of handheld devices.

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