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Tablet Usability

通过 Jakob Nielsenon August 5,2013

Summary:Flat manbetx官方网站手机版design and improperly rescaled design are the main threats to tablet usability,followed by poor gestures and workflow.


We've now conducted 6 rounds of usability studies with tablet users.The good news is thattablet usability is reasonably solidand has improved substantially since theinitial batch of wacky iPad apps,which often totally confused users.

We've tested several generations of big and small iPads,as well as many models of Android tablets (including the Kindle Fire) and some Windows tablets (including Microsoft Surface).We found that mostwebsites are fairly usable on tabletsand need only limited adjustments to suit this environment.(In contrast,usingwebsites on mobile phonesrequires many moremanbetx官方网站手机版design changes to accommodate the smaller screens.)

Not surprisingly,when we asked people how they use their tablets,web browsing was universally mentioned as a top activity.

Although tablet-specific applications have plenty of usability flaws,the problems are mainly the same as those that plaguetraditional application manbetx官方网站手机版design: difficult features,amismatch with user workflow,and poor instructions that people don't read.

manbetx官方网站手机版Designing and building any high-usability application involves substantial work,and tablet apps entail a few additional issues,including the need to modify the user interface for different tablet models.This,combined with the popularity and ease of using websites on tablets,prompts the question of why companies would have a tablet app in the first place.In fact,we advise most companies tostick to their websiteand invest the resources in improving web usability,which still suffers badly in most companies.

Build a tablet app only if you can offervalue-added functionalityover a website,such as creating an app that is focused on supporting a single main task.

In any case,don't make your tablet app a scaled-up phone app.We've seen hundreds of apps (mainly on Android) thatmisuse screen spaceby offering tablet users the same basic manbetx官方网站手机版design as phone users.

Revenge of the Frames

In 1996,Icondemned the use of framesin web page manbetx官方网站手机版design.Sure enough,those original terrible frames are rarely seen today;improved manbetx官方网站手机版design techniques — such as inline frames and parallax scrolling — meet similar goals with better usability.

But,like zombies,certain bad manbetx官方网站手机版designs come back from the dead to haunt users,and frames-like concepts cause usability problems in many modern tablet manbetx官方网站手机版designs.Two common problems are split-screen manbetx官方网站手机版designs and temporary frames for search results and the like.

Although a tablet seems big compared to a phone,it's still a small screen and typically shouldn't be subdivided into smaller frames or split views,except when usersreallyneed to access two types of information simultaneously.Every time you split off part of the screen,less remains to show content.

Web 万博官网manbetx下载UX Bleedthrough

Given the web's dominance in computer use these days,it's not surprising that we found concepts from theweb user experience bleeding through the platform divideand influencing people's use of tablet apps.Key examples here include search dominance and heavy reliance on theBackbutton.

Users frequently want tosearchon tablets;they also want to return to their search results.Unfortunately,many apps don't provide a proper SERP (search engine results page) as a primary navigation object that users can easily return to.Instead,search results are shown in one of those zombie-attack frames with a fleeting screen presence.

TheBackbuttonhas long been the user's lifeline on the web;if anything,it's even more important on tablets,where accidental activation is a common consequence of the touchscreen interface.Unfortunately,even with apps that did offerBack,our testing revealed periodic usability problems: sometimes the feature was hard to find,while other times it didn't undo the user's last action as expected.

Gesture Problems

Gestural user interfaces have several inherent problemsthat tablet apps need to minimize:

  • Accidental activation: users often touch things by mistake and need a way to undo the result.
  • Swipe ambiguity: when the screen is divided into subregions (such as the frames we caution against),the same gesture can have different effects,depending on where it's activated.This problem is exacerbated by the trend towardflat manbetx官方网站手机版design,which doesn't clearly demarcate the regions.
  • Invisibility: users can't see the gesture they just made,and they sometimes can't even see what they're supposed to touch.Again,flat manbetx官方网站手机版design makes this worse.
  • Low learnability: all of the previous problems combine to make gestures hard to learn.Advanced gestures might as well not exist,as very few users employ anything beyond the basic tap,press,swipe,drag,and pinch gestures.

Despite these inherent problems,most of the tablet apps we tested employed gestures reasonably well.The exaggerated skeuomorphism of the early days has also subsided.

Dangers Ahead

The two mainthreats to tablet usabilityare:

  • Flat manbetx官方网站手机版design.Why not allow users to easily see what they can do?We need a golden middle ground between skeuomorphism and a dearth of distinguishing signifiers for UI elements.
  • Rescaled manbetx官方网站手机版design.Whether shoehorned down from a bigger screen or grotesquely exploded from a phone screen,too many Android manbetx官方网站手机版designs simply don't fit the tablet's actual screen size.(Poorly rescaled manbetx官方网站手机版designs are less common on iPad and Windows tablets,probably because of smaller device diversity.)

The flat manbetx官方网站手机版design threat is a fashionable trend that will hopefully subside before it hurts users (and companies) too much.The second threat will be with us longer,because it's caused by resource constraints and thenaïve idea that a single manbetx官方网站手机版design is good enoughas long as itadapts to the available screen space.

Full Research Report

The full research report with126 usability guidelines for tablet user experienceis available for download.