5 Lessons from a Year of Tablet Research

UX magazine presents the findings from a one year contextual study looking how people use and adopt iPads into their lives. Brennan Browne, of the firm AnswerLab, outlines their key findings based on early use of the first generation of tablets. In fact, iPad was launched in April 2010 and in May the first full-year study began.

When I visited two Sears stores last month, I even heard stories from Sears associates about customers bringing their iPads with them doing research and price-comparisons as they shopped. Certainly not the norm…but one thing is clear: the norm is shifting.

Here’s the topline takeaways from the UX Mag article by Brennan Browne:


“We sought to understand what kinds of content consumers expect across mobile platforms, how it should differ on the mobile phone from the touchscreen tablet, and how native app content should differ from the web experience on both mobile phones and touchscreen tablets.”

One trend worth mentioning to the people who create iPad apps and Web products/service:

Tablet Users Need an Experience-Based Incentive to Access Apps Over the Web

“Although iPad users have security concerns, they maintain high expectations for iPad native apps. Many people report using the Web on their iPads even when equivalent apps are available. What explains this behavior?

Using the Web (as opposed to native apps) to access content is habit. Our field studies have shown repeatedly that most users’ first impulse is to open Safari and either search using the toolbar, or navigate directly to a specific site via a bookmark or direct URL input. The web browsing experience on the iPad is very good, especially compared to smartphone devices. Users feel like they can access the full web experience on their iPads, and therefore apps are not a necessity for most sites. The one notable exception here is that nearly everyone we speak to understands that they cannot access sites that utilize Flash on the iPad, a problem that they find particularly annoying.

The major takeaway for app developers is that they must provide an experience that goes above and beyond the Web in order to give users an incentive to use an app over the web equivalent. Users expect apps to be faster, better looking, and more streamlined. However, content must not be limited; otherwise users will feel that they still need to refer to the Web, and the last thing users want is to duplicate effort on a device where the web experience is so good to begin with.”


Topline Takeaways

When creating experiences for the iPad (or tablet platforms in general), developers, designers, and product managers should keep the following lessons in mind:

  1. The iPad is viewed as more of a small computer than a big iPhone, so apps should be designed to provide a fast, intuitive, and full-featured experience that is fun to use, and that beats the Web.
  2. People use their iPads as extra-portable laptops, but don’t necessarily bring them with them everywhere. This means that in the iPad’s current state, location-specific experiences are secondary to core functionality. However, look for this to change as the proliferation rate of mobile broadband increases in the coming years.
  3. When browsing the Web, users expect to access the full version of websites, so ensure that your site is optimized to deliver a great experience on the iPad in addition to on traditional computer platforms. For example, input fields should include the appropriate HTML5 tags to streamline information entry on the iPad by serving up the appropriate iPad keypad.
  4. The fact that the iPad serves as a shared device (without iOS support for multiple users) presents unique challenges, so be sure to consider how features and use cases (e.g., one-click purchases) may be affected by multiple users sharing a single device.
  5. Security is a major concern for iPad users as many are still unfamiliar with the platform. Plan accordingly and be aware that users may be less likely to log in or enter their personal information when using a tablet device.
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