5 Lessons from Tablets

by Kevin Makice

Brennan Browne, a user experience researcher at AnswerLab, started researching tablets about a month after the iPad was released in Spring 2010. By spending a lot of hours poking and prodding the devices with the hands of the people trying to use them, Browne observed three big trends.

First, iPads are becoming a replacement for traditional computers. While there are special tasks (e.g., entering a lot of text) for which a keyboard is better suited, tablets have become the go-to device for web browsing and reading. Second, since the tablet often becomes a shared device in a household or office, owners are more concerned about security. The interface design, therefore, comes under greater scrutiny, as poor design implies poor security. Finally, there needs to be a compelling reason for someone to move their attention from the web (which works quite well on a tablet) to an application. Developers must provide an experience that goes above and beyond the web equivalent.

Browne turned these and other research tidbits into five key lessons for design on a tablet:

  1. Apps should be designed to provide a full experience that is fun to use and beats the Web.
  2. People expect to access the full version of websites, even if the impulse is to detect the device as mobile.
  3. Because people don’t necessarily bring their iPads everywhere, location sensitivity is secondary to core functionality.
  4. Consider how interactions are affected by people sharing a device (e.g., one-click purchases)
    NOTE: This is how I got Plants v. Zombies. My 1-year-old bought it for me shortly after I keyed in my password to update other apps.
  5. Because of risks of misplacing the device (among other things), people may be less likely to log in.

UX Magazine (August 5, 2011, by Brennan Browne)