iPad Usability Gets Thumbs Down From Expert

We now know how much an iPad will cost in Australia and what data plans will be available from Optus and Telstra, but a common question remains: do I really need one? If you're after a good applications experience, usability research suggests the iPad may not be the best choice.

Picture by mikebaird

User interface expert Jakob Nielsen doesn't pull any punches in his preliminary assessment of the iPad's browsing experience, based on testing with a set of users who were already iPhone users (and were therefore familiar with the basic interface conventions used on the Apple platform). The big lesson? iPad apps look great, but aren't easy to use:

The iPad etched-screen aesthetic does look good. No visual distractions or nerdy buttons. The penalty for this beauty is the re-emergence of a usability problem we haven't seen since the mid-1990s: Users don't know where they can click.

The lack of consistency is also a major problem:

To exacerbate the problem, once they do figure out how something works, users can't transfer their skills from one app to the next. Each application has a completely different UI for similar features.

Moving to another page, for instance, might involve swiping left, swiping up, or scrolling down. In my own brief forays into playing with an iPad, this was an aspect that particularly struck me.

Nielsen stresses that his findings are preliminary, and that iPad usability is likely to improve as application developers become familiar with the interface and conventions emerge for good application design. That, though, is a good argument for not racing off to own an iPad too early.

iPad Usability: First Findings From User Testing [useit.com]


    I would agree with the over all assessment from my experience with using the iphone.

    It can take a few good minutes of playing with a new app to get the hang of it, something I'm sure some people would find very frustrating...

    It's really sad to see a really good idea been screwed by badly thought out design

    Hmmm, are you still dissing on Apple, Angus?

    I let my Mother-in-law use my iPad (yes I purchased one in the US) and I couldn't get it off her. It only took her minutes to understand and use it, and she loved it. She now wants to buy one. I gave my Father-in-law my old windows laptop (XP) two years ago and he is just coping with it, whist the mother-in-law can't use it at all.

    For me, that's a big thumbs up for usability with the iPad and a big thumbs down for the regular PC. And I might add, with over a million iPads sold (and glowing comments from the web) others agree.

    Where did you find this so called expert?

    Ok, I went and had a look that this report by Jakob Nielsen. Two things I immediately picked up on.

    1. His expertise is in WEB Usability, not UI
    2. His report comments in iPad APPS, not on the iPad.

    So this means this articles heading is WAY off.

    When Jakob, talks about the navigation within the applications he talks about how is does not behave as a web page. He wants the heading to go to the home screen, he want normal back and forward buttons. Basically he wants every app to behave as a web browser. Almost all of his comments are compared and related to web browser experience.

    Below is the summary from Jakob Nielsen. Again it should be pointed out, he is talking about APPS not the device itself.

    iPad apps are inconsistent and have low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles cause further usability problems.

    If three or four possible interactions is too much to get your head around then perhaps you shouldn't own one ever.

    Good. But not good enough to stop buyers. And that is the opinion of one man only. With all thats been said against it. It has far and above many great things going for it. Everything we buy in the world has flaws. Either real or perceived. You just get over it because it is whats good about a product that draws and binds us.

    A person has to be a fool to remotely think the ipad is perfect. Its better to think its perfect for many things, ok in others, and crap in a few. Thats the reality for everything. Stupid to even bring it up

    As far as the iPad goes it is a revolutionary upgrade to the TABLET. Alot of people are comparing this new item to a laptop or notebook. The Ipad is neither of these; its in a class of its own. You cant even compare it to an iPhone because its not a phone and doesnt pretend to be one. The comparison can only be made by examples of tablets on the market. Using the apps is not like a peace of PC software they are APPLICATIONS; stand alone applications. You need to find a new expert; Jacob Nielsen describes usability as a problem because users dont know were to click! What the? You can tell this so called expert is from the dark ages of PC. Apple have taken this to whole new level leaving PC uses in the dust. Accessing items is now as simple as touching. No longer is there a need to click to do anything; its a simple touch do just about anything on the new apple tablet.
    It would seem that the facts have been totally missed in this article by someone suppose to be an expert on user interface.

    Sick of hearing about the ipad. It was invented years ago, its just a craper version of a tablet pc.

    My seven and three year old daughters have had no such problems. Whilst I would, of course, like to claim to have bred young Einsteins - that is hardly the case!
    I suspect Mr Nielsen stumbled across a rare group of iPhone using Amish for his testing!

    First of all...nobody NEEDS an iPad. It's just a consumer toy to fill some emotional void in our lives to make it a tad more bearable. Secondly it seems most people's assessment of it's UI is much like the iPhone. If so, I am all for it because I think my iPhone experience is great and look forward to playing with the iPad, but I certainly don't need yet another mouth to feed.

    Hahaha are you guys serious?? The iPad is going to launch in Australia on the 28th and revolutionise the mobile computing industry.. thus why every other company is rushing to release there tablet equivalents... Im not just an apple fanboy wagging his tale at the iPad.. im looking at how the public has responded in the US.. & AUS buy buy buy (because its amazing).

    Your having issues with usability?? Really?? Consistency in applications? Really?? is this a genuine beef or just hunting to find fault?

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