Designing iPad Interfaces – New Navigation Schemas

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: Designing iPad Interfaces – New Navigation Schemas

With every new “form factor” comes a unique set of design conventions and interaction paradigms. The emergence of tablet interfaces such as the iPad marks a new chapter in digital design. How much of web navigation or smartphone conventions persist in this new world? And what are we seeing that’s new? Are there specific wayfinding and browsing mechanisms that make for a satisfying and productive iPad user experience? Based on an assessment of 50+ iPad applications that run the gamut from utility/transactional interfaces to comic readers and other publishing apps, this presentation provides a focused analysis and assessment of navigation methods in a distilled format. Navigation schemas will be explored by interaction design themes, supported by examples, and recommendations on when best to employ them.

Lynn Teo
Creative Dir, Dir/Head of User Experience, AKQA


The first toy you had as a child was (or had) some form of an interface. UX is how kids learn.

Evolution of computing: Starting with keyboard and terminal UI. Move on to mouse and the introduction of the hand into computing. Then we get to tablets + stylus, where the pen is the input source. With the advent of touch interfaces, the hand’s involvement in the UX is direct.

Old Palm OS – we had to learn a new language (Graffitti) to use the stylus UI – there was a learning curve.

Touch UI leverages form. What is the form factor of an iPad? Four elements: Size, shape, form, mechanics.

How intuitive is the touch UI? Watch this 2.5 year old having her first encounter with an iPad:

Form follows function – Louis Sullivan.
What’s the follow up to this viewpoint?
Form INFORMS function.

Teo looked at 80 apps in prep for this session: News apps, games, tools and utilities, comics, ecommerce, etc.

Car manufacturers LOVE the iPad – allows the user new ways to explore a new car before purchase than can be done on the web. This is shallow content – you want users to “snack” on little bits of content.

The more you can reference elements of the physical world, the more intuitive the app will be. (I disagree with this, and others I spoke to strongly disagree with it too).

[Left early… she’s actually going to go through all 80 apps, ugh.]

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