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12 Apr

The Future of Web Design: What’s Changed With The Arrival of the iPad and other Tablets?


Last year saw the arrival of the iPad, an event which seems to have brought with it a wide range of new places to see browsers, suits and geeks. An activity which was once limited to home, library or work; sitting at the computer. Now we are free to walk, sit, lounge or hang upside-down if we want to, and lets face it someone will. This new more deeply interactive way of using a computer has caused a further need for a rethink from web designers such as 2am. iPads require designs to be made with them specifically in mind. Especially as they seem to have gained enough popularity to be a key part of the world of computers for at least the foreseeable future (the launch of the iPad 2 has cemented their position at the top of the tablet market).

What things need to be considered when designing for the iPad?

The iPad can clearly be held in a variety of positions and web designers need to take these into account:

Portrait – as a page in a book.

Landscape – as a newspaper.

Back to Front – people that do this do not need to be considered, as they are not likely to be able to use your site either.


Without any external control; mouse, keyboard, voice command or telepathic communicator how does it work? To be honest it is about as simple as switching on a light switch, you use your fingers to navigate, click and control. Whether it is to view, zoom, scroll or whatever it is all at your fingertips.

So why does this require a rethink at places like 2am?

If an iPad allows this much flexibility then surely the viewer can flip zoom and rotate the website until it looks right for their settings. Well you might think that at first but here are some of the problems the iPad wrought:

R.I.P. Flash:web

The iPad has no flash compatibility whatsoever and it is not likely to. HTML5 does cover this issue by allowing you to still create animations and include videos. Plus HTML5 websites are viewable in their entirety on an iPad.

Bigger but grounded:

Since the finger does not move a curser around the iPad hover effects are grounded and in reality need removing to allow fluid use by iPad users. Also unless you have particularity small fingers, links in text are unusable and need to be enlarged for usability.

It’s a burning light:

With all those different locals available to the iPad user, i.e. everywhere, that shiny screen makes direct bright lights a pain in the eye. Contrast has to be altered to make the site be as useable as possible no matter the conditions.

Some sites have started making themselves iPad friendly or at least as friendly as they can be so far, for example:


Apple’s webmail interface

Apple’s MobileMe calendar

Editorial page of New York Times

While these examples have altered layout, colour and relative structure  a great many have yet to begin the changes, which may become necessary as iPad popularity grows.

What do 2am and other designers need to do to maintain their sites and popularity now that the iPad is on the roll?

For a company like 2am recommendations for the future are:

Go Java! Go CSS!:

Used together JavaScript and CSS will round out websites and allow the accommodation of width issues where fluid width solutions are impractical.

To me, to you:

Interaction is the key now that overly complicated designs are becoming harder and harder to use with the iPad. New ideas and new thinking are going to improve usability and make your site stand out from the crowd if you can do it well.

Adaptation, Adaptation, Adaptation.

Website design needs to be accessible on everything from the iPad and mobile phones through to lap, desk and palm top devices.  This is not a grand reinvention of everything that came before, it is an adaptation for one device, a big one and an important one but only one device. You must keep your content fresh, relevant and clear and for each new product that storms the computer market adapt as quickly, effectively and suitably as possible.

One Response to “The Future of Web Design: What’s Changed With The Arrival of the iPad and other Tablets?”

  1. Giles Smith

    All good things to consider, but remember Java and Javascript are two very different beasts ;)

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