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Preparing for the iPad

Here we are in March, only weeks away from the iPad’s launch, and I’m willing to bet that most of you still don’t know what to make of the iPad. Some of us were expecting a radical new operating system and tactile touchscreen feedback. Others were wanting a machine to replace the need for a laptop completely. Heck, from the things I was reading, I was expecting to interact with the device through telepathy and get 10 years of power from a fuel cell battery powered by unicorn tears.

Shattered expectations aside, I think the iPad is going to be a bigger deal than people are giving it credit for. The hands-on reviews of the device are glowing, and I think the average geek is seriously underestimating how a huge pool of developers is going to rock our worlds through a 9.7-inch multitouch canvas. With that in mind, here are some things I’m thinking through about our online properties as the iPad launch inches closer.

A Different Approach?

This is the biggest issue I’m struggling with right now… do we need an iPad specific version of our site?

The more I think about it, the more I conclude that an iPad specific site just isn’t necessary (although it would be fun to dream up some other ideas for the platform). When I designed our mobile site last year, my central motivation was creating a positive user experience around a 320px wide canvas. It hit me this weekend that I’ve already tackled that problem for the iPad’s 1024x wide canvas in the form of our existing website. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking through the aspects of that experience through the eyes of the iPad’s sole navigation tool: the fingertip.

Getting Touchy-Feely

Mutli-touch controls are going to be awesome, but one important navigation schema is lost in translation: the mouse hover. If your site is like ours, you’ve used the mouse hover ever throughout your site for visual flourishes and various levels of user interaction. Does your site break when that action isn’t available?

In testing with my iPhone, it may not be that big of a deal for things like site navigation. The menus on our site that drop down on hover seem to drop down with a tap in Mobile Safari, so I’m assuming the same behavior will translate to the iPad when it ships. Still, this is something important to consider if you have a lot of mouse movement related interaction on your site. It’s also one of the main reasons most Flash embeds would fall apart on a multi-touch platform (which brings me to my next point).

Goodbye Flash, Hello Open Web Technologies

Perhaps the major gripe that people seem to have with the iPad (and the iPhone/iPod Touch) is the lack of Flash support. Though the geekiest among us have decried this situation through every message board at our disposal, it seems that Apple is intent on leaving Flash to die (something I’m more than okay with).

Thankfully, Safari is a serious piece of web rendering software these days, and it supports some of the most bleeding edge web standards on the planet: HTML 5, CSS 3 and CSS Animations. When you look at these technologies, it becomes obvious that Flash isn’t as necessary as we think it is.

Take a peek at this year’s MacHeist site (you’ll need Safari 4 or Chrome). 100% Flash-free, powered completely by web standards and CSS animations. Pretty rad, right? I know what you’re thinking though… “Animation is cool and everything, but how am I supposed to watch video without my Flash plugin?”

HTML 5 powered video is here to save the day. It’s still in its infancy, but big players like YouTube and Vimeo are starting to support it and I think the acceptance of the standard will snowball once the iPad arrives. (As a side note, it’s funny to think how a browser like Internet Explorer 6 slowed the progression of web standards by a few years when browsers like Chrome and Safari are almost forcing the progression of standards now. It’s a great time to be a web developer!)

What does this mean for your site now? If it’s built around Flash, it’s time to begin rethinking that strategy. You’d be surprised to see what you can pull off these days with simple JavaScript frameworks like jQuery, and you’ll get a free boost in search visibility since Google will be able to see more of your page.

What Are YOU Planning?

Has the iPad’s huge multitouch canvas given you any big ideas for expanding your ministry? Do you think the iPad is just an overweight iPod and a waste of time? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Scott Magdalein (Reply) on March 1st, 2010

    Yeah, both. Big ideas for app development, but still pretty underwhelmed. But, to be fair, the iPhone was a really big step forward, so the next device is naturally going to be not-as-big.

  2. Tyson Cadenhead (Reply) on March 1st, 2010

    There are tons of people out there who exclusively develop with Flash. I wonder how they’re feeling about job security these days.

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