I’ve been holding off too much in the way of iPad commentary, baring Michael’s iPad-iPad-iPad post over the weekend (he waited in line at the Apple Store in San Francisco). I won’t comment on the iPad usability and so on until my one has arrived and I’ve had time to play. (It is currently clearing customs at London’s Stansted Airport)
What I’ve found remarkable is the amount of people who have forwarded me (or published) videos of their children using iPads, often for the first time.
Whatever your viewpoint of the iPad, you do have to hand it to Apple. They’re nothing short of geniuses there in Cupertino. I’ve been watching the videos across the bank holiday weekend marvelling at just how natural the iPad user interface appears to be. As anyone with children will know, the iPhone has long been the ultimate ‘keep quiet’ tool for parents. I’ve observed it being deployed to dramatic effect, day after day, by many relieved parental units. Whether the child is 2 or 10, there’s something to keep their attention focused on for at least 10 minutes at a time (more, if you decide to give them the password to your account… danger lurks therein, though, especially with that TomTom app still at £60).
So the legions of children accustomed to tapping, scrolling, pinching and tilting the iPhone have, predictably, taken to the iPad like the proverbial flock of ducks to a stupidly sized lake.
Give an iPhone to a child who has never ever seen one and they’ll be an expert in moments. Such is the UI model. The home button gets me every time. The satisfaction, delight and confidence that comes from always being able to press that is palpable. Witness, for example, the little girl in the video below. She has, I imagine, recently got acquainted with the basics of the English language. She’s already used an iPhone. So the iPad? To a 2.5-year-old? No hassle. Watch as she readily clicks about it, swiping screens, tapping stuff — watch as, part way through, she drags the letters ‘L’, ‘I’, ‘O’ and ‘N’ into order to complete the word ‘LION’.
The fact that a 2.5-year-old can use the interface is simply staggering. Staggering.
The father notes on his site that there were some downsides — she little girl kept her thumb pressing on the iPad’s screen-edge by mistake — which confused the hell out of the touchscreen interface when she tried tapping elsewhere. A quick pointer from dad set her right. She also didn’t understand the (perhaps poorly conceived?) FirstWords Animals start screen, “Because the start button looked like a graphic, rather than a conventional button, she couldn’t figure out how to start the game“.
To all mobile computer UI designers: If a 2.5 year old can’t get it quickly — like this girl in the video — then you’ve failed totally. I think that’s a fair statement. Remember we’re talking about the basic UI. Obviously a toddler can’t read English but the basic interaction model should be usable by anyone.
I am pleased Apple have come along and delivered this. I now have a supersized stick with which to beat stupid technology companies on the head with. But please don’t think it’s rocket science. It’s not. They’ve just sat back and thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if’ and made it happen.
Unfortunately no other manufacturer has bothered. This is a constant annoyance.