The iPad is no Apple Newton. It truly is a revolutionary device. The whimsical blog of “Fake Steve Jobs” calls the iPad a “life-changing, mind-altering product”. Although that may be an overstatement, the iPad is certainly important — to the computing industry, to computer users, and to online marketers.
The launch of the iPad marks a significant step forward for mobile computing, and for computing in general: one’s productivity can finally be as high as when they are in front of their laptop or desktop computer.
Overall, it looks like this launch is going to be a success and the iPad, like the iPod, iPhone, and the iMac before it, will gain significant distribution among consumers globally. And, since it includes a browser with a different set of specifications from either the standard mobile devices, the question for advertisers becomes a practical one – “will my web pages come up on this browser?”
With the iPad’s Safari browser, the Web generally looks and works like one would expect on any traditional laptop or desktop computer. However, there are important differences in the browsing experience and these differences could thwart your web visitors, stopping them in their tracks. As a site owner, you must compensate for these differences, or risk losing the conversion, and more importantly, the customer.
In this post, I will briefly touch on 6 ways to optimize your site for the iPad. You can read the full article published on Search Engine Journal here.
“Mobile-Friendly” Does Not Equal “iPad-Friendly”
If you created a mobile-friendly version of your website, you are probably seeing the fruits of your labor in customer adoption already. That mobile site, however, is not suitable for iPad user consumption. Mobile sites are designed for a teeny-tiny screen and translate to a deficient user experience on the iPad. Consequently, your mobile site should never be served up automatically to the iPad user. This can happen inadvertently when your web server’s “user-agent detection” is overly broad in its matching of mobile user agents (the user-agent strings for the iPhone and iPad are very similar; the iPad’s even includes the word “mobile”).
Layout and Formatting
Your website design should lay out correctly whether the user is holding the iPad in landscape mode or portrait mode. Furthermore, when in landscape mode the primary call-to-action should still be visible without scrolling.
Retool Your Navigation
The multi-touch display provides an elegant and intuitive interface for users, but it also presents some unique challenges to web designers who are use to designing for the desktop. The biggest one is that iPad users cannot hover their cursor, potentially rendering any mouse-over navigation unusable. On the iPad, holding your finger down invokes the copy-and-paste function rather than creating a hover state.
Lack of Flash Support
This is one of the main complaints with the iPad. No, this was not an oversight. The lack of Flash support was intentional. The company line at Apple is that Flash is prone to crash and is too resource-intensive. Just ask the helpful employees at the local Apple Store and that is what they will tell you. I do not buy it. If Flash really were that unstable, wouldn’t we notice it on our desktop machines? Speaking for myself, this is not something I experience regularly. Google’s Chrome browser, which I now use as my default, even calls it out when Flash crashes and displays an unhappy icon in the place of the Flash animation. Note that in Chrome, Flash does not crash the browser or even the tab/window. Surely Apple can follow Google’s lead and build this same capability into Safari? I feel this is more a political/competitive issue than anything else.
It’s still early days for the iPad. This is version 1, with many more revisions to come. There are still many kinks to be ironed out, including in the iPad Safari browser rendering engine. So do not be too surprised if Safari for the iPad mangles your website with browser rendering bugs and inconsistencies. For example, notice in the figure below that the “New Account?” checkbox partially overlaps the input field, the combination of the two resembling a pull-down list. User confusion could result: if the user doesn’t recognize the checkbox, then they are liable to mistakenly expect the “New Account?” label to be a clickable link and find themselves unable to proceed to checkout.
A Simple Solution
If implementing an iPad-optimized version of your website quickly is not feasible or would be a struggle, there are a number of vendors that provide real-time site translations – one such solution is our own Mobile Site Optimizer. These solutions can be implemented quickly, cost-effectively, and with minimal IT involvement. Read more here.
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