iPad apps not very user friendly yet: says Study

Can ipad experience have some flaws? Going by the great ads with smooth gliding touches Apple rolls out, it’s hard to believe that iPad users can have issues with iPad experience. But if a new neilsen study is to be believed, some issues ate there, when it comes to usability of iPad apps.

According to new research from Nielsen Norman Group (NNG), the usability of iPad apps and of Web sites displayed on this device have improved substantially in the past year. In particular, apps have become more consistent and standardized, making them easier to use; but there's still plenty of room for improvement.

To come at the verdict, Neilsen brought in 16 people with at least two months' experience using the iPad and systematically tested how they interacted with 26 iPad apps and six Web sites.

Here's what came out, based on users' feedback, preferences and complaints:

1) Touchable areas are often too small and too close; not easy to separate from the adjoining areas:

A) In most cases, text content is big enough to read, but links in the text are too small to tap easily. Sites and apps with too many touchable areas; always pose the risk of touching the wrong link. Such accidental navigations are quite irritating, especially in iPad apps that lack a "back" button.

B) Many touchable areas don't appear as if they are touchable

C) "swipe ambiguity”(when multiple items on the same screen could be swiped) another source of irritation. The problem aggravates in apps that also relies on swiping to move between pages. Many users couldn't turn the page because they swiped in the wrong spot; announcing dejectedly – “The app is broken."

2) iPad users don’t like to use Touchpad
The reasons being: iPad users don’t want to go through a registration process that requires lots of onscreen typing (a common problem with Touch pads; No wonder iPad is being used mainly for media consumption than media generation)

3) The Web browser has limits:

The study found that iPad browser is good for simpler tasks, not so good for complex tasks. The study advises that if a service requires substantial interaction, consider an app instead of a site.

4) Website or app flaws make app fail:

A third of the tasks that involved apps ended in failure. The study attributes the failure to tow reasons: Web site contained more information than the app, or the app design was confusing.

5) Screen space is used inefficiently

The study found that many apps use the iPad screen inefficiently: the screen contains little information, making a user take extra actions to get to the content. One reason for the underutilized screen are the Popovers.

6) People prefer landscape mode when not using an iPad cover:

The study found that slightly more users preferred the landscape (horizontal) orientation for the iPad. The fact that some iPad apps handle navigation differently depending on orientation (like, they use horizontal navigation in landscape and use vertical navigation in portrait) confuses users.

7) Splash Screens are a real problem

Several new iPad apps have long introductory segments that might be entertaining the first time, but not the second and the third time. The study suggests no Splash screens neither on websites nor on apps.

One interesting finding of the study was that, iPad users are more generous about killing time; that’s they take the metric of “killing time” higher than smartphone users.

Notably, the time that is usually available on the smartphone is much shorter and more fragmented than the one available on the iPad. On the smartphone, users may look for a quick article to kill the three minutes of waiting for the train; but once on train, they may take out the iPad to kill the time it takes to reach their destination. --------

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