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The New Rules for Designing for the IPad

Memo to Creatives: It's Not a Big IPhone

By Published on . 4

Felipe Memoria
Felipe Memoria
Designing for the iPad over the past few months has been a liberating experience, but has also forced us to make some big adjustments to our design methodology. We found it useful to keep asking ourselves, "Are we taking full advantage of the tablet here? Or just just making another iPhone app?"

Here are a few specific things to watch out for:

Slide or scroll?
There are few established patterns for the iPad apps, with a lot of exploration going on, so navigation design is still a wide-open problem. As a result, precious content gets hidden. Let's take Time magazine's app as an example. The app is beautiful -- the pages were obviously designed specifically for the iPad, but the layout fits so perfectly on the screen that there are no visual clues there's content below the fold. Sliding to the right is the natural behavior, but what about the rest of it? The Wall Street Journal has a similar problem. When is the time to slide to the next article or to scroll to keep reading the story you are on? It's pretty easy to get confused. Popular Science's app tried to fix the problem using arrows indicating where to go, but they still didn't hit the spot. It has too many written instructions and it's not intuitive. Here's our tip: bring some basic web best practices back to play: show a little bit of the content below the fold and don't worry about making the page fit perfectly on the height. Do the opposite: make it clear there's more to come.

Explore the large multitouch-screen capabilities
There are more possibilities than just zooming the image on the iPad. The native Photo app, for example, expands photos from sets when you pinch them. That's a brand-new interaction associated with pinching. Also, think about how people will be tapping and sliding instead of clicking. Netflix got it right. Their home page's carousels are all clickable and, if you try it, they will slide. That's something they designed specifically for the iPad. Here's another tip: It's always a good idea exploring patterns established by other native apps -- like the Photo one. Since they come installed by default, they are going to be the most popular ones and have great influence on how people learn to use the device.

Don't forget to exploit photography and video
The nicest things about the iPad are probably its screen resolution and size. If you can just maximize video and photography on the iPad, you're going to give the user a great experience. The UK Guardian newspaper has an app called Eyewitness, which tells the news through pictures and very short captions. It's amazingly effective. Netflix nailed it also -- "Watch Instantly" is its home page and that's probably why everyone's using the app: to watch their videos. The other channels will have to follow. They have no choice. Watching videos on the iPad is just queue if you prefer, but they realize that's far less likely than you coming to watch a movie.

Orientation changes can be delightful
With the iPad, you can look at the screen as either a portrait or a landscape. This turns out to be an interesting opportunity for designers. Moving from Portrait to Landscape gives you a chance to come with something new and unexpected. The iPod app for the iPhone already illustrated this. On the portrait orientation, its interface is basically a list, but when you change it to landscape, voilą -- the cover flow view delights you with something totally unexpected. Another great example is iBooks: if you're reading it in portrait mode, you get a single, simple page, not so different from the Kindle experience. Switch to landscape, and it reads like an open book, with the ability to flip pages. So, play around and don't stop with the default, stretching the content -- that's the easy way out. Try coming up with something that will make people smile.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Felipe Memoria is design director at Huge. He is author of "Design for the Internet: Designing the Perfect Experience," a best-selling UX book published in Brazil by Elsevier.
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