Should Websites be Designed for the iPad and Other Slates?

National Geographic on the iPad

Apple’s iPad has sold somewhere between 13 and 20 million units, and projections support an additional 20 million units in the first half of 2011. At the January Consumer Electronics Show, expect dozens of slate-style computers to emerge, most running Android, and some from television manufacturers, such as Vizio.

The iPad dynamically changes the way in which the Internet can operate, and goes way beyond the web. To that end, many websites will begin to look dated and/or clumsy to navigate. Should web designers take into account this new user experience? Touch navigation is just one of the huge evolutionary (revolutionary?) steps forward – clearly it is more immediate and offers more control than manipulating a mouse. At the same time, in its current state of development, a mouse is more often more precise.

So, things could become complicated. Now, a web designer needs to take into consideration the potential that a web page could be viewed on any number of browsers, on a smartphone, or on an iPad or similar device. Designing specifically for the iPad may not be practical, but it won’t hurt your overall design ethic. The format is that of an average sized display, and the opportunity to create visually appealing elements is stronger than ever before.

Let’s take a quick look at several websites that get the iPad design right (and it would help if you viewed them on an iPad!):

Nike: Nike has created individual websites for web browsers and the iPad. The landing page auto-detects the iPad and delivers a unique web environment that will automatically change perspective as you rotate the iPad screen. (note: if you visit this site with a computer’s web browser, you will not see the iPad site)

Vimeo: We use Vimeo to present our HD video to clients and our many followers. Vimeo has come up with a design that effectively works with the iPad.

National Geographic: Always known for excellent design, the new iPad version of the NatGeo site is remarkable. Being able to use your fingers to enlarge images, sweep through stories and zoom in on the things that interest you makes the NatGeo iPad experience deeply personal – and creates strong brand loyalty and ad revenues as well.

Sports Illustrated: SI has a lot of data to share, and it changes hourly. The web design as applied to the iPad is remarkable, with extremely intuitive navigation and rotating layouts, regardless of the aspect you’ve positioned your iPad. Awesome.

During the coming months, R/com Creative will share more details regarding how site design can be an important part of the overall design process. Even our website has been reworked to deliver a more complete experience when using the iPad.

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