Do We Need an App for iPad or Tablet? Tips for UX Design for Tablets.

Screen Shot 2012-11-14 at 10.39.37 AM

To answer to this question lets understand the differences and similarities between Mobile, Tablet, and desktop.

If you don’t know the core function of these platforms then you will end up spending your time and money where you shouldn’t.

should we have an app for tablets?



Tablet is a smaller laptop not a big Smartphone

Users tend to use tablets more as an extension of their laptop than as their smartphone.

Viewers want to get into the platform fast, intuitive and with full-featured.

Tablets also provide a wider soft keyboard to make typing easy, and a larger screen to read books, play games, write e-mail or view websites.

Tablet is better than mobile for branding.

Make sure  your site is comparable for tablet. When browsing the Web, users expect to access the full version of websites, so ensure that your site is optimized to deliver a great experience on the Tablet in addition to on traditional computer platforms. For example, you need to apply HTML5 tags to your site and specially for your input forms, so users can enter the data.


Tablet is location centric

People use tablets as an extra portable laptop. They use them in special locations. They don’t tend to carry them every where. This is not only because of their larger size , but it is due to the broadband connection limitation.

Recently published research from Nielsen indicates that :
70% of tablet owners use their device while watching TV, and
57% use their device while in bed

You see people uses their tablets in kitchen, while drinking coffee or on a sofa or walking with it around the house. But don’t see them very often behind their desk.





Tablet is a portable device, not “mobile”

How many times you took your tablet when you wanted to shop?

Nielsen reports that only:
“21% of tablet owners use their device while shopping or running errands, compared to a
full 59% of smartphone owners.”

This means that for many  tablet owners, it lives primarily at their home and goes with them only when they have a specific reason to bring it along.

Off course as we mentioned above , Tablets are being used where they can get access to Wi-Fi broadband. If we expect the broadband adoption to increase in future, it will have huge effect on the “mobility” of Tablets.


Should we make an app for ipad?



“I love my iPad it is Fun and Easy”

How many times you heard these two words when some one describes working with iPad?  The convenience and ease of use is one of the main reasons that serves as replacement for the desktop computer.

The word “fun” is what many users expect from their tablet and even mobile. They expect these devices to entertain them, to make them have fun moments. When you design just for tablet, you have to take this requirement into your consideration.

Apps or sites should be designed to provide a fast, intuitive, and full-featured experience that is fun to use, and that beats the Web.
They like to get entertained and have access to the full view they have on web.


Tablets are not mission- centric devices

For fine-tuned and detailed tasks, like Photoshop or excel work, users tend to go to desktop rather than tablet or smartphones.

A tablet provides a better browsing and e-mail experience than smartphones because of the larger screen size.

Developing new apps for Tablets and specially iPad makes it better for mission-centric tasks. New Apps turn tablets as a hub for many performances that used to be on desktop. Or even more and better.

Skype app turns iPad to a telephone, or Invoice2go (for billing customers), TurboScan by profix (for scanning business cards and receipts),  and FileMaker’s recently redesigned Bento 4 database .

Should we create an App for Tablet?

Skype app



Should we create an app for tablet?




Should we creat an App for tablet?

urboScan by profix



Tablet can be a shared device

Different from Smartphones, and similar to desktops, tablets can be shared. Family members may share it within their household.

So make sure to consider this option when you design for tablets. Options that are just for “one-user” may not work here (for example purchase with one-click).

iPad (till now) does not support multiple users and that can be a challenge.



Should we create an app for ipad?


Security and trust

With increasing numbers of different screens, devices from desktop to mobile and tablets, many users that are not familiar enough with these platforms, feel uncomfortable to enter their personal information on all these devices. So they pick one device to “Log-in” and work if needed.

Security is a major concern for iPad users as many are still unfamiliar with the platform. Plan accordingly and be aware that users may be less likely to log in or enter their personal information when using a tablet device.


Screen size and orientations

One of the main difference between the two platforms (tablet and mobile) is the size factor.

Layouts for the iPad are measured at 768 × 1024 physical pixels, and the iPad uses portrait mode as its default viewing orientation.

With Android tablets, it’s a bit more complicated, due to the multiple device makers. In general, there are 7- and 10-inch Android tablets screen sizes (measured diagonally from the top-left corner to the bottom-right), with sizes in between. However, most tablets are around 10 inches.

iPhone is 320480
Iphone4 is 640×960
IPhone 5 is 640×1136
Mini 7 inches or 1280×800 it 1/3 of the size of iPad

iPad mini  display resolution is 163 pixel per inch compare to ipad4 that 243 pxl per inch or 9.7 inch display screen


Should we design and app for tablet?



mini ipad



Design size for Tablets

If you design for 1000 px, it will be fine for resolutions around 1024 px and will work on tablet.

In case your website design is around 960 px, it can be viewable on tablets without many problems.

If your website size is not within above, it probably will scale down to fit the width of the tablet browser but then you need to zoom in and out a lot to find information.

The other solution will be using CSS style sheet that will adapt with different resolutions. There are many tutorials and sites that can help you on this :



Dealing with multiple orientations

Two different orientations are another design decision that needs to be made.

Some designs will not look good on landscape or vice versa. The idea of “fold line” that we have in website design is not valid  on tablet and mobile any more.

As you know word “fold” comes from print, specially newspapers. “Fold” is considered the top part of the newspaper that you see above the folding area when folded on a table.

You need to make sure your site is not distorted in different orientations. Consider your main important features be easily viewable.


ipad orientations



Bigger and simpler is better

When you design for a tablet, always think that you have a large big color pencil and small paper.

The size of fingertip is 44 px, if there are any linked button or area that are smaller than 44 px, people can not click on it.

This is totally different from clicking on mouse on desktop. Where you can even click on 16 x 16 px area.

Simple and big rule is applicable for fonts and content.

Before 2007 when the first iPhone came out, using tiny and small fonts on websites were trendy. But not any more now. Font needs to be the right size. Some the best size around 12- 14 pt .

Also line spacing and length is another important you need to know.


Using gradient, colors and textures

Whenever you use gradient, color and texture it should be for helping a better function and aesthetic of the site together.

For example if a texture makes the foreground button more visible it a good decision

Or a gradient will show a pushed state of a button more clear, then go for it

TExture for ipad


Do we need an APP for tablet?

After getting to know some aspects of the tablets lets answer to this question:

-When you just need users go to browser and perform activities that normally expected from desktop. There is no need for app and users will be more comfortable to do so.

For example: Retail stores can use browser based sites for tablets for their online sales. However, we see many of them have their apps also, however, their app provides other functions than just simple site.
See Macy’s app :“The latest version of Macy’s iPhone app puts everything right at your fingertips. Enjoy special offers & in-store savings, access your registry & find gifts for others, manage your account or use our new scan feature to get instant access to product details, videos & more. Plus, now it’s easier than ever to explore Macy’s Herald Square store in New York City!”

Should we make an app for tablet?



“Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe says 72% of businesses that have tablets are using the iPad. And the iPad boasts by far the largest number of productivity apps for tablets, leaving Android, Microsoft and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry to play catch-up.” Source

“Forrester found that numerous productivity apps are equally as popular if not more so on tablets as on PCs, including note-taking apps, social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn), team document-sharing sites (SharePoint, eRoom, Lotus Quickr) and Web meeting or Web conferencing (Cisco WebEx Meetings, GoToMeeting).” Source

Tablet market is going to change, till now Apple has been dominant in the market but with new new arrival of:
The Windows 8-based RT Surface tablet,  Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet (comes with a so-called S Pen that business people), Lenovo, business-oriented ThinkPad Tablet, an Android device with a digitizer pen, we will see some changes in the market soon.



Tablet is not a larger version of smartphone. It is more a “portable” version of laptop. It doesn’t have the same mobility as smartphones . However, It seems we are heading that direction.

Apps for tablets are mainly for turning this device to a mission-centric platform. Either for Businesses owners or consumers.

Designers, developers and business owners need to understand where they can get all benefits from a browsers based site in a tablet vs. designing an app. This won’t happen unless you understand the limitation and usability aspects of tablets among other platforms.


About the author:

Saya is a web and graphic designer, fine artist and a bit more. Follow her on Twitter / Facebook.

2 comments on “Do We Need an App for iPad or Tablet? Tips for UX Design for Tablets.

  1. Pingback: Do We Need An App for iPad or Tablet? Tips for UX Design for Tablets. « human being | #INperfeccion®

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