Monthly Archives: May 2012

Tablet Devices #2 – Why should we care?

So, having established that the Roman’s beat us to the idea of tablet devices, the bigger question is ‘what does this mean to us as digital practitioners?’

Sceptics might say that there is no reason that tablets should affect online experience but I don’t agree with this and I think our children are the key reason why. My daughter, who is three and a half, currently loves nothing more than to perch the iPad on her lap, load up the Angry Birds app and proceed to fling birds at the smug little piggies and watch them explode. She has no issue at all with gestural commands, in fact for her it seems quite natural and she flips through the menus at great rapidity – and I would point out that we didn’t teach her this, she just intuitively seemed to know how to do it! When I was three and a half I think I was playing with model tractors in the garden!

Yes ok, Angry Birds isn’t a website I grant you, but this is relevant because it is apps like these that are teaching are children how to use tablets. It is building an expectation for how technology should work and how the software on them should work as well. A friend of mine who also has a three year old told me that the other day she walked up to the TV and tried to change the channel as if it were a touch screen…she had transfered her learned behaviour from one piece of hardware to another and was confused when it didn’t work. What is this strange rectangular thing called a remote that you old people use (she may have thought)?

The experience isn’t much different for myself (and no doubt others like me). The apps I have installed are things like the Guardian’s Eyewitness app, a charming little daily look at the world through the view of a photograph, or the Epicurious app that is an easy to use recipe book. I like these apps because the content can be navigated easily, the page is designed to suit a large touchscreen (and to showcase imagery heavy content) and I can flick through the content using the gestural interaction that makes it all so easy.

In the case of Epicurious, I use it in the kitchen when cooking as it is so easy to read and move through the recipe, saves having a bulky great book (and I can play music at the same time) and I don’t have to constantly get close to the screen to see it (like on a mobile). A friend of mine uses his iPad in the bath to watch videos and read Kindle style books (a bit high risk for me, but each to their own)!

A tablet can be everything to everyone, but more than that, it has taken the browsing experience away from the computer and made it a truly open and mobile one that can be all things to all people of all ages. The biggest shift in the web is one that I believe is still to come and it will come as our children grow older. They are growing up being taught how a good experience works, using high end touch screen hardware with simple, neat and well designed navigation and highly visual GUIs. They will grow up expecting experiences that match this and tey will expect new sites to exceed it. Sites that lag behind will be lost to the new world of inteactive, gamification heavy, visually stunning apps and websites that will be accessed from literally anywhere at anytime…and they will be accessed from mobile devices like tablets and not from desktop computers. The future is already now, in the next couple of years mobile and tablet browsing will surpass desktop browsing and with it a new expecatation of how the web should work.

Tablets make the world wide web and all it’s glorious content (your glorious content) more accessible to all ages, but it comes with an expectation. We will need to grab attention early and make the experiences better if we want to be a part of it, or accept that we are a thing of the past and watch as others succeed where we fail.

Tablet Devices #1 – what did the Roman’s ever do for us?

I have just bought myself an iPad 3, which is my first foray into actually owning a tablet device. Although I have used them at friends and at work since the first incarnation of Apple’s trend setting device emerged, until now I haven’t actually taken that leap. But when I was out having dinner with my wife the other day I also overheard a conversation where one woman said that she was thinking of replacing her ageing computer with an iPad. And this got me to wondering; why do we have such a fascination is with tablet devices?

The concept of a tablet isn’t exactly a new one. The Roman’s taught their children to read and write with wax tablets and used them to document and share ideas. It certainly saved carrying round reams of paper and was convenient to carry with you. Is this the reason why we like tablet devices, convenience? I think it is definitely a key part, but perhaps it is the evolution of the browsing experience which can also explain why we love them so much?

Back in the dark days of home computing, where a hulking great machine sat in a dim dark corner of the room, grunting away and squealing like a pig every time you went online, browsing was a very individual experience and largely confined to the realms of research. The internet was a reference point but not much more (unless you wanted to download an essay to submit as your own!). With the proliferation of home wi-fi networks though, we were suddenly able to sit in our comfy armchairs or lie on the bed with our heads buried in our shiny laptops instead, with no need to talk to anyone else at all. The evolution of the web from a research tool to an entertainment provider also meant we started to spend more time online, with social networks drawing more of us online with each passing day. But laptops simply aren’t the most ideal design for easy browsing (or for fitting on our laps whilst crushed into overly small train seats).

Smart phones were the next logical step, with people wanting to access their web experience whilst on the move, without having to haul around a laptop, but even today a lot of sites are simply not suitable for a good browsing experience. So along came tablet devices, with the ability to have a convenient and portable experience but on a full resolution screen. But more than that, suddenly we had a device designed to be ergonomically pleasing to use.

Tablets provide a portable experience, that feels natural, is convenient in size and easy to use. What I think is most amazing is that tablets, more than any other device, have started to bridge the age gap in using technology. The ease of use makes it simple for my 3 year old to sit and play on apps, or for my grandmother to read a news article. It is convenient to use in the car on journeys so our children can watch films in high definition or for me to take notes in a meeting. In short, it really is a master of all trades rather than a jack of one (to mix an analogy).

But what does all this mean for the digital world and how we develop websites? My next blog post will talk about how tablet devices have changed both the way in which we consume the internet and what we expect from it.

Hello world!

Hello and welcome to my blog.

I am Peter Sheppard and I have worked in IT development and Digital in various areas since leaving Uni in 2006. I would describe myself as a sometime videographer and photographer, full time digital and IT practitioner.

This blog is intended to be a view on the current world I live and work in, based on my own opinion and observations. I invite healthy and adult debate on any of the subjects I talk about so please feel free to message me. The only thing I ask is to keep things appropriate and avoid trolling, this isn’t that type of blog.

Enjoy!