Study Suggests iPad Browsing Less Effective Than Using Apps

Loads of people use the iPad for casual web browsing, but just how well does it work? A usability study suggests that users browsing on a tablet make far more errors than on a computer. Conversely, those using specific apps browse through more content.

Research firm Miratech tracked the experience of 20 people using iPad in its research lab. The results suggested that browsing on the iPad was less effective, with users making four times as many errors compared to browsing the same sites on a PC. A particular problem was accessing smaller interface elements, a situation exacerbated by the reluctance of many test subjects to use the zoom function. (There's more examples in the video above.)

Conversely, when browsing content using an iPad-specific app, users viewed more pages per minute than on either an iPad or PC browser, and the "fun" element made up for any minor annoyance with accessing specific sections. How does that match up with your iPad experience?

It's hard to browse the web with an iPad [Miratech]


    the real take-home message: n00bs don't know, and are unwilling to learn, how to use full-featured applications like generalist web browsers.

    What's new? :--P

    From first-hand experience, there's a great deal of work that goes into designing the user experience of either a website _or_ an app, and the medium in which each is to be used is one of the strongest factors to be considered.

    There are several fields of science dedicated to these phenomena (both "hard" technical and "softer" sciences like psychology ... sorry to the hardcore cognitive psychologists out there for calling your field "softer").

    As touch-tablet-based apps become more and more common, the population will continue to improve en-masse in their interaction with the devices and quite quickly becomes more capable of applying this knowledge sideways into things with which they are already familiar (e.g. surfing a web page, and intuitively zooming in & out if necessary).

    Remember your Mum using a mouse for the first time ?

    Interestingly, the lines are already starting to blur and website design is skewing towards a larger, "friendlier" feel in many cases. This is being driven largely by the increase of users who interact with websites via their tablet and other touch-based devices.

    We have recently been hired to build a number of iPad business apps (mostly for internal use in our clients' businesses) using a web-delivery paradigm that mostly uses web pages that are optimised for tablet/touch users. The bonus is that these same "web apps" can be used via any desktop browser as well without needing to create a separate desktop application or service.

    Not surprising really when you think about it. Nearly all websites are designed for larger screens [at least 800 x 600] and mouse use for clicking on links and tabs.

    They are not designed for smaller screens and large clunky fingers.

    Until that changes, tablet browsing is not going to be as effective as on a normal computer.

    Tablet browsers need an easy way to open and load a tab in the background, like double tap a link. Browsing on a pc, especially through Google Reader or social news websites like Reddit I tend to open up 10 tabs at a time, read through and close when I'm done.

    Middle click opens new tabs in the background instantly, opening a new tab and switching back to the previous tab on a tablet takes 2-3 seconds each time.

    I think this will improve greatly once iOS5 brings native tabbed browsing to the iPad - the current Safari interface takes too much in "tab" switching. I've found my browsing comes up to nearly the same as a computer when using Atomic Web, for instance.

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