Will the iPad change the way you design?

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iPadUnless you on a deserted island somewhere, you heard yesterday about Apple’s newest technological advancement: the iPad. Now, there has been all sorts of buzz all over the internet about whether the device is extraordinary or significantly less impressive than expected. However, my question relates to how this new technology will effect the way we, as web and graphic designers, do our job. Below I would like to offer a few thoughts on how our jobs might change, and then leave the discussion up to you. Please add to the list and let us know what you think.

The unchanging

The truth of the matter is, the basic principles of design are never likely to change. Alignment, Proximity, effective color schemes, repetition, and more will rule the design world regardless of the technologies that we, as designers, have to adapt to. The real question is, what methodologies and techniques might we have to adopt when new technologies emerge. The internet, for example, is completely revolutionizing the graphic design industry. Designer have had to adapt, learn new skills, and continue to work across all popular media. Let’s examine a few changes that might need to be made for devices like the iPad and its successors.

Usability – namely links and buttons

It’s important to understand that new devices like the iPhone and the iPad are not navigated using a mouse. They’re controlled with human fingers, many which are much fatter than your typical mouse pointer. This might bring into play, as a result, the need for more “finger-friendly” links. As touch-sensitive devices become more and more popular, we will begin to see less of the traditional hyperlinks and more big, touchable buttons.

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Horizontal vs. Vertical styling

This is more a question on my part. Do you think that, due to the ability to easily switch between horizontal and vertical orientation, as web designers, we will need to create a vertical stylesheet and a horizontal one? I ask, because I recently watched a video about how Sports Illustrated will begin to implement their magazine on the iPad and the styling completely changed when the orientation did.

Your thoughts?

I honestly have no idea what is going to happen because of the new iPad. Perhaps design as we know it will change forever. Perhaps nothing will change. What are your thoughts on the matter? Share them with us.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

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  1. Personally, I was unimpressed with the iPad. Most times, we start out with something huge and get smaller. In this case, we’re just making the iPhone and iPods bigger! Plus, who would want to carry this around? You’d need a case for the screen, it doesn’t fit in your pocket, and I would be very afraid of ever dropping it.

    Plus, it’s called an IPAD. Now that’s original.

    • @Carlin Scuderi,
      I see what you mean about getting bigger vs getting smaller. I’m not overly enthusiastic about the new device, but I don’t think it’s going to be a huge flop either. Let’s just say I’ll wait til second or third generation to start thinking about buying one. Thanks for your comments.

  2. I would not think so… can’t see whether iPad is a great product.

  3. No. And I don’t think it will for many others. It is not at all what people expected it to be and I think Apple missed the mark for this niche product.

  4. No. The IPad is a piece of crap. Useless post you have here.

    • @Anton, this post isn’t useless… the iPad is, though.

    • @Anton, Actually, it is never useless to ask questions about the future directions of our field. Especially when new products hit the market that may have an impact on the field.

      I personally have no use for the iPad and think it is a useless addition to Apple’s product line, but that doesn’t mean that I think we should not consider whether it will have an impact on our field as designers. I for one thank you Preston for the post. Nicely done.

  5. in my opinion, it won’t change the way we design, because the majority is occupied by the PC’s. We, as web designers, need to think about “Who will access this site the most?” so there, we come with the thought that not the iPad users. Of course, it will be an useful tool for navigating from everywhere, but the most visitors come from PC’s. I won’t start designing my blog’s look because of 500 of people who use iPads to navigate.

    • @Veezual,
      Nice point. In my opinion, a new category of user experience has been opened up in to play here. Which means soon every computer company will come out with a copy-cat product. This means essentially within the next ten years or so a good majority of people could be using a tablet of some sort. What do you think?

      • @Preston D Lee, That makes sense. It could be that when (or if?) that time comes web designers will have to design websites specifically for the tablets.

  6. Some great points there. As a designer I see a flaw in the iPhone interface (having one myself, in fact viewing this page via the iPhone), mainly the fact that I have enlarge the screen with my fingers so I can click on the right link, as so many navigation links are close together on the majority of websites (that’s where White space comes into play, but that’s another story) which is time consumin as a consumer, and just darn inconvenient. I was hoping for a screen friendly stylus for traditional tablet functions, that would have sealed the deal for me.

  7. It is too early to predict that iPad is going to change anything drastically. It is creating news since it has just been launched. Will not like to change the way I design yet.

  8. I think that this device will force designers to think more about how the users interact. Basically every typical and what is now typical feature of the iPhone has been magnified by the iPad. Multi-touch gestures, floating modals, and split views will make designers think more about what ‘feels’ good versus what ‘looks’ good

  9. Good call on the “finger-friendly” link buttons. I think that’s the most likely change.

    I think the iPad will revolutionize a lot of things we do right now. People are getting too hung up on the “big iPhone” thing. It’s not an iPhone killer, it’s a notebook killer. It’s the Apple version of the netbook, will the added functionality of iPad (and iPhone) apps.

    What other product out there lets you (easily) play movies, listen to music, read ebooks, play games, AND get some work done, all without some major compromise in at least one of those areas? Plus, with the built-in microphone, it will double as a Skype phone. And at that price, I think it will soon be the no-brainer choice for university and college students.

    Only thing that it is really missing is the web cam — and I’m sure that will be coming too.

    However I don’t think the iPad in itself will drastically change the way we design (perhaps the little things like the bigger buttons you mentioned), but it is a signal that change is on its way…


  10. Aaron Asbury says:

    Seems like it’s a fun, hipper, competitor for the netbooks that have been coming out lately. I will probably get one when they unvail the 2nd generation and fix whatever bugs arise in the 1st gen, however, I do not intend on using it for designing. I would use it for databasing ideas, sketches, brainstorming, and writing, but when it comes down to using my adobe products, i’ll take a tower any day of the week.

  11. If monkeys can learn to use touch screens then so can we:


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4312466677/

    Do not underestimate Apple. Someone has to raise the benchmark, make change, make things better… Who needs the keyboard when it could render on the screen? Who needs a screen? Pranav Mistry doesn’t:


  12. One things for sure its an exciting time to be a developer and designer with the explosion of new devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

  13. Talking about designing, mmm i don´t think this is gonna make such a revolution about it. Unless the ipad will work like the Wacom Cintiq or better i´d definetly gotta have one of those. The finger wont overcome the precition and interactivity of the stylus. Let them release something called iPen Unless the system let me run, at least software like photoshop or any adobe family or Corel,3D stuff, whatever… like the wind in november mmmm i don´t know. I have to see that. Any other way, improvements in hardware are not that great unless the relationship with the software gets enhanced too.

  14. I don’t think so. It’s a computer.

  15. Steve Jobs is genius and i just read some articles that AT&T are having pressure upon the presentation of the IPad.

  16. I’m not so sure but it’ll be a great device.

  17. Jean François says:

    * multi column layout (newspaper style)
    * no scrollbar (content must fit in panel)
    * master/detail >> when an info is selected, the content will take the full panel

  18. The Sports Illustrated Pic is not the iPad, it is the Time Pad actually. You might want to correct that. 🙂

  19. Great article, Preston. One that deserves some serious thought.

    We may have to design web site interfaces that accommodate multi-touch. We are used to developing for single touch (with a mouse) but with an iPad, you could easily touch multiple points at once. e.g. a you might drag a few items at once into a shopping cart. And not because we couldn’t achieve the same with multiple single touches, but because now can.

    I’m amazed by the shortsightedness of some folks. I can’t believe how easily people dismiss the iPad and its significance.

    As a designer or developer, if you can’t see the significance of the iPad, you are going to get left behind and end up one of those bitter old cynics bemoaning new technology.

    Even if the iPad is a big flop, it doesn’t matter, it will start the revolution. Devices like the iPad are the future.

    eBooks and tablets have been trying for years to get there but they lacked one really significant factor: a decent touch interface.

    And this is Apple’s big, big advantage. It is the only major OS maker with a proper touch based OS (rather than a hacked one like MS did with Windows). Apple might still screw it up as they did in the 80s with the GUI. But at the moment, they have the lead.

    Touch is the “killer app” of this decade. Any OS developer who doesn’t get it right will fade to irrelevance.

    Likewise any web designer. The cynics can stick their heads in the sand, but if Apple doesn’t succeed, someone else will. And it will be sooner rather than later.

    And we have to design them now – after all, there’s already 75 million iPhones out there.

    Touch devices are here to stay and we have to design websites for them or get left behind.

  20. Well, it looks like we may have to have a designation (i.e.- mobile specific sites) for tablets. Maybe a http://www.t.graphicdesignblender.com with vertical and horizontal sheets. 🙂

  21. he’s genius all right ipad version two with multi tasking is coming soon..

  22. It doesn’t have the market share and traction in order to call for the change.

  23. Why should designers need to adjust to the iPad’s browser? Should it be the other way around? It’s not like the whole world will be using an iPad for browsing.

    From what I see, the iPad browser has an auto-resize feature that will fit the whole website into it’s screen. It works just like the iPhone so I think there’s not much tweaking to do. Yes, I agree there will be no hover state but have you tried clicking on something that is meant for hover on the iPhone browser? It still works. Instead of hovering it, you just click it and the hover animation will still show up.

    The desktop computer or the laptop will not go away because of the iPad. Some people will still prefer having physical keyboards. Some people still prefer the mouse or the trackpad. I agree that we should consider iPad’s browser in developing websites but we should not make it such a big deal.

    Sorry for the rant. Peace out.

  24. Fusaro Design says:

    I see this a an opportunity to expand the digital design to another medium, this will be the first digital reader that is in full color and has potential for a more interactive style of reading. It seems most are only looking at the web portion of this device, and this is an added feature to the device not its focus.

    Think about a children’s book that has animated scenes along with the text to help with teaching kids how to read, or short commercial like ads in a magazine publication. Yes, I understand that this can be accomplished on the web, but this will be on a portable device that is large enough to provide more on an impact than the 240×320 format of the iPhone.

  25. It will be ineresting to see if people start making “iPad optimized” versions of their sites. I’m pretty excited about the iPad, but for now I think I’ll let people browse my normal site on it.

  26. I pad is too big to fit in your pocket and as such, will struggle to compete with the iphone for popularity – and will lose – due to the practical and fun aspect of the iphone. The ipad is basically like taking your laptop around with you – not ideal atall. There’ll be a smaller, better version delivered later in the year – I can only see this as another fad that Apple are creating.

  27. Personally I’m not going to design for the iPad. My websites are always compatible in 1024×768 resolutions, so I think it won’t matter too much to me.

  28. Awesome, worth checking out!

  29. This post is featured on 40 iPad tools, tips for designer

  30. You guys are taking air about a product you have not spent any time getting to know.

    Its a new concept its also a new way of consuming. The new apps that are coming out right now are really beginning to change I browse news, video, facebook twitter and even consume books.

    This is just the start…

  31. This is interesting, graphic design has come a long way on the iPad. I’m a graphic designer, and this device is where all of my ideas come to fruition. The retina display is gorgeous and AT&T’s 4G LTE speeds are incredible here in San Francisco!

  32. So interesting to read the comments that were made way back in 2010 in today’s context (2012), particularly the ones that reckon the iPad is useless. How wrong were they!

  33. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you
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  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by prestondlee: New blog post: Will the iPad change the way you design? http://graphicdesignblender.com/will-the-apple-ipad-change-how-you-design

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bkmacdaddy designs, WPstudios,  Gopal Raju , Joe Mescher, Alex Priest and others. Alex Priest said: RT @designinformer: Will the iPad change the way you design? http://su.pr/2AiSCe – design is the only area I see the iPad being useful… […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Preston Lee, Diego Valle and Alejandro Bejarano, Millo blog. Millo blog said: Check it out: A very interesting conversation about the iPad and the design world going on here -> http://bit.ly/91y7Uy […]

  4. […] Will the iPad change the way you design? | Graphic Design Blender (tags: ipad design webdesign) […]

  5. […] Will the iPad change the way you design? (graphicdesignblender​.com) […]

  6. […] Twitter web client for monitoring and interacting with the Twitter community 2 Likes Will the iPad change the way you design? | Graphic Design Blender 2 Likes Lilypad Concept: Floating City Amazing Pics Explore one of the most […]

  7. […] now that my opinions of the iPad are out of the way, Graphic Design Blender has a cool little write up about how the iPad will change the way sites are designed, from vertical […]

  8. […] February 8, 2010 · Leave a Comment Preston Lee gets the conversation going on whether and how the iPad is going the changed graphic design over at graphic design blender. […]

  9. […] Unless you on a deserted island somewhere, you heard yesterday about Apple’s newest technological advancement: the iPad. Now, there has been all sorts of buzz all over the internet about whether the device is extraordinary or significantly less impressive than expected. However, my question relates to how this new technology will effect the way we, as web and graphic designers, do our job. Below I would like to offer a few thoughts on how our jobs might change, and then leave the discussion up to you. Please add to the list and let us know what you think. […]

  10. […] Will the iPad change the way you design? […]

  11. […] Lee, Preston D.  “Will the iPad change the way you design?” January 28, 2010. <http://graphicdesignblender.com/will-the-apple-ipad-change-how-you-design&gt; […]

  12. […] 20 years ago or more, the most interaction with an advertisement or printed material that the user would have is to read or, at most, fill out a form to mail in. Now, designers have to consider not only aesthetics but also user experience. In fact, UX (user experience) has become a science and has opened up a whole new career pathway. UPDATE: Now with the addition of the iPad and other tablet devices, designers have to consider interactivity with a mouse versus fingertips. Do you think the iPad will change the way you design? […]

  13. […] na tym realną kasę, bo tak się składa, że prowadzisz sklep internetowy, to masz problem. Niektórzy projektanci proponują, by rozwiązywać ten problem, częściej stosując buttony zamiast linków […]


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