I have an iPad and can tell you from first hand experience that it has completely shifted how I consume information both for work and for play. At first I had assumed it would behave as a very light weight email/browser device, not replacing my MacBook Pro laptop (which is my primary computer). How wrong I was. I work. I read. I play. I learn. I listen. Even my husband and kids have claimed it as their own (especially my kids, they have just as much loaded on the device as I do).
Reading the latest statistics from eMarketer on iPad usage for both entertainment use and for news consumption I wasn’t surprised in the least. Where I do think there is room for improvement is with web browsing, which is why whatever company can crack the non-Mac (and non-Flash) touch tablet market will have an amazing consumer base to pick from. Chances are when HTC, HP and Dell comes out with a comparable device, we will have one in our house (and office) and then we can really take a look at information consumption on a mobile/tablet device without the restrictions of Apple.
The one thing that keeps the iPad (and possibly other tablet devices) from completely taking over the world in my opinion is the fact that the majority of websites are not optimized for mobile viewing. While I have strong hopes for HTML5 as a Flash-killer, I still regularly come across websites that are not only all-Flash (thus making it all but invisible to my iPad Safari browser) but still using some of the horrific designs from the early web (for example, blinking scrolling text and butterflies that follow your mouse pointer – seriously!). Now while the Internet does contain a vast wasteland of deserted sites that no one tend any longer, there still is a large number of companies/websites that are not just one iteration behind on website upkeep – they are DECADES behind.
What’s happening here? If between 24% and 31% of iPad owners in the UK are using the devices for entertainment and news, it can’t be far off that a similar number are using iPads for ‘everyday’ business and personal browsing. While for the past few years it was acceptable to have a website determine if you were a mobile browser or desktop and ‘dumb down’ the layout and graphics for the mobile users (and trust me, not many did), you don’t have that crutch any longer. More and more information is being consumed on large screen mobile devices (the iPad is just the beginning) and you need to keep up with the demand.
Personally, if I come across a website that doesn’t load in my iPad, or has difficult navigation that I can’t access with a touch screen – I immediately go somewhere else to find the information. Most likely a competitor to the site I originally reached out to. Having a web presence means constantly monitoring it to be sure it is the most useful it can be for your intended audience. They are moving at lightening speed with technology, and you don’t have the luxury to lag behind any longer. On a weekly basis I come across businesses that invested “damn good money” three, five, or even ten years ago for a website design. Guess what? You will eventually need to do it all over again. And again. And again. A web design that was constructed three years ago most likely doesn’t even take into account iPhone / smartphone use, let alone large screen mobile usage. Don’t even get me started on websites from a decade ago…