Apple's iPad

At 6 pm GMT last night I, like millions of others, found myself following 140 character updates from a conference given by a company named after a type of fruit.

I should probably disclose, typing this on my iPhone on the ride to work, that I am an Apple fan. I’d like to think that my allegiance isn’t unconditional though…

When Steve (I like to think we’re on first name terms) announced the iPad yesterday, I found myself a little underwhelmed. I guess that after all the media hype, a bit like Obama, it was going to struggle to live up to expectations.

On first glance, it appears be an iPhone you can’t fit in your pocket.

There are already thousands of generic blog posts about Apple’s latest product, but I thought I’d focus on the UX implications of the new device…

Joking aside, the fact that it doesn’t fit in your pocket is important. I can see the size affecting the user experience of the device for three reasons: Expectations, Ergonomics, and Context.


Until recently mobile applications were poor. They were ugly and hard to use – crippled by small screens and horrible keyboards. The recent ascent of the smart phone has changed all this, but they are still mobile apps. Because they’re on a phone we accept a limited subset of functionality; they can’t fully compete with their big brother counterparts in terms of functionality, and they shouldn’t.

But this isn’t a mobile phone any more. Users will inevitably expect more – and many of the simplistic interfaces developed for the iPhone won’t live up to the big screen.

As the applications become necessarily more complex in order to take advantage of the bigger screen size, it’s going to take a lot more effort to develop successful applications. Interfaces will be far more complex…

If the web experiences is as good as they say it is, will we still need mobile apps for our favourite websites? Why have a separate Facebook app when I can use the full-fat version?


The fact that Apple haven’t included a microphone or camera in the iPad confirms that, while functionally similar to the iPhone, this device is intended to be used in a completely different context. It’s not a device you’re going to pull out of your trousers while in a shop or just walking down the street.

Not many users are going to want to use their iPad as a spirit level or calorie counter, for example.


Opinions on touch screen keyboards are divided. I personally have no problem with them, but irrespective of your viewpoint, typing on the iPad ain’t going to be easy.

Gizmodo wrote an interesting article before the iPad launch on why an iPhone type keyboard wouldn’t translate well to a tablet.

The iPad’s pretty big, so you can’t hold it like a phone and type with your thumbs because they don’t make thumbs long enough. You could hold it one-handed while tapping on it with the other, but – unless you’re Tom Cruise in “Minority Report” – touch typing with only half your digits isn’t a skill that’s easily mastered.

The demo videos look plain awkward.

iPad Ergonomics

Will typing-dependent apps stand a chance?


Irrespective of the success or failure of the iPad, I think that some interesting UI innovations are likely to emerge from it.
The applications developed for the iPad are going to launch a whole new class of programs. They will sit on a new place in the spectrum. Not mobile, not PC, but somewhere in-between – a kind of halfway house.

That in itself is quite exciting, even if the tablet is not.

Share this post.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on Twitter

Related posts

Also in Designing

Birds, Bees, and Honeycomb

Had I ever been asked the question “What animal would you like to be and why?” (apparently it was a common interview brainteaser), I would have answered “A penguin”. I like water, I also like ...

Also about Apple

SQL Server 2008 samples dialogs: the eyes wide shut method

During the rather stressful and difficult process of installing and getting SQL Server to work properly I became acutely aware of how... strangely designed the install dialogs were for the sample data...

Also about Designing

Centralised or Embedded UX? How the team is organised at Red Gate

I've been asked several times recently what it’s like to work in UX at Red Gate and how we organise ourselves as a team. In this blog post I’ll attempt to briefly answer those questions.
1 - We a...

Also about Ergonomics

The Empty Magic of Steve Jobs

On the 27th of January, Steve Jobs, whilst  demoing his new iPad, declared that hyperlink navigation is "magic".  In response, more than a thousand geeks cheered and applauded.
How can this be?

Also about User Experience

How to Write a Blog Post

Reposted with kind permission from Simple-Talk.

I’m going to try to explain, from my own experience, how to write a blog post, article, feature or  short piece  that people will want to read. W...

  • Chirayu Shishodiya

    I am looking to develop my writing skills and this article was very helpful! Thank you!

  • Robert Young

    A blog post, at least those beyond the purpose of navel gazing, should follow the tenets of a newspaper story. To wit, lead with the lede, creating a text which can be clipped from the bottom up and remain coherent.

  • Jon Smith

    I have personal experience of being edited by Andrew as I have written various articles for Simple-Talk – see

    Working with Andrew on articles has been very good experience, but also really hard work. Andrew is always pushing me to explain things clearly and will not accept me slipping into jargon. It is NOT a quick thing to write an article for Simple-Talk, but the end result is an article that I, and hopefully Andrew, are proud of.