What are the different design approaches/UX considerations between designing an iPad app and an iPhone app?

First, and most obviously, you need to consider the constraints of both platforms. The primary constraint when you are designing an iPhone app is screen size. You have a smaller "canvas" to work with, and that constraint means that you can't overload the UI with an abundancy of controls and information. Not to say that you can "go nuts" when you are designing for the iPad, but you do have some more area to work with… you shouldn't overdo it there, either.

(Another general piece of advice is to get a good understanding of the UI conventions and controls for both devices by studying the iOS Design Guidelines from Apple… so that when you decide to "break" any of these conventions you will at least be able to do so in an informed intelligent way).

Second, if you are building an iPad version of an iPad app, you may want to "reverse engineer" the experience of the iPhone app, to identify what works and what doesn't. What are the core tasks that the app lets the user do? What can be done to enhance or improve these tasks when designing them for the iPad? Test the existing app with users, even if it's just casual "guerrilla testing." You may find that tasks and user needs that work perfectly fine in the mobile context on an iPhone make no sense on the iPad.

Case in point: I design banking and financial service apps, and one of the big new features that all the newer apps are providing is called "Remote Deposit Capture." What is that, you may ask? It's basically the ability to take a photo of a check and deposit it using a mobile banking app. It's universally well regarded by customers and a "delighter"… but it's hardly used on the iPad versions of different mobile banking apps. Why? My theory is it's just easier to take a picture with an iPhone than with an iPad, and the "awkwardness" is reducing usage and perceived value. You may find many features that "make sense" on the iPhone that don't on the iPad.

The opposite is also true, of course… there are going to be some features that don't work in an iPhone app but would work great on an iPad. Any feature that involved "drag-and-drop" as an interaction model, for example.

And for goodness sake, don't use the added screen real estate to add more features and information just because you can! Approach the design of the iPad application with the same discipline you would use when designing a small-screened mobile app. On second thought, use MORE discipline because the temptation will be greater.

Finally, a thought on behavior and context: Many of the best apps on the iPhone are designed to support "quick" behavior – you go in, you do something, you get out. This is because the iPhone is a mobile phone and when people use it they are often… well, mobile. The iPad is a different creature altogether. Though I HAVE seen people walking around city streets using an iPad to do something as they traverse crowds, it's a rare occasion – people do that with iPhones all the time. iPads are used a lot more for "browsing" and so the best apps on that platform provide a simple interface to consumer and interact with content.

Obviously, everyone and every app is different… but you should really look at what people want to do and where they do it first and foremost… no matter what platform you are designing for.

See question on Quora

Lessons in UX: The “tender trap” of the iPhone

If you’ve been paying attention to the stock market lately, you may have noticed that Apple is doing quite well. At the time of this writing the stock is over $500 a share, the company has just had another quarter of record earnings, and Apple is worth more, in market capitalization, than Microsoft and Google combined. And some analysts say its growth rate is accelerating…

What is driving such amazing financials? Primarily, it’s being driven by a device that didn’t even exist until five years ago: the iPhone. The share of revenues accounted for by iPhone sales was almost half Apple’s total, and that half was more than Microsoft’s TOTAL revenue in the same quarter. The iPhone is one of the most profitable and successful products, ever. And almost every customer who buys an iPhone is going to be “locked in” to their iPhone for a long long time. Not necessarily because the iPhone is “better” than competing mobile devices from Google, Nokia or Microsoft… but because of Apple’s secret weapon: the app store.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time research user habits and behaviors, and have some observations about why people are resistant to change and get stuck in “ruts.” A primary reason is people are either comfortable or afraid of change… or both. But another key factor is cost… both tangible and intangible. We say, “I can’t exercise more, I don’t have the time!” because we think we don’t have the currency – time – to spend doing it. “I can’t change phones, I have everything setup the way I like it” is the inverse of that argument, in that we look at the amount of time setting up and personalizing our phone as an “investment,” one that would be lost if the user switches to a different type of phone.

Directly aligned with this is the Apple app store, where both actual and perceived cost comes into play. As Apple has the biggest app store, and has made the process of buying apps as simple as possible, it’s easy for users to start loading apps that suit their lifestyle… and the more apps users add and use on the iPhone, the more users become locked into the “tender trap” of the iPhone. Since the majority of apps cost money, this very quickly results in a lot of additional costs for the new iPhone customer, which this (perhaps unconsciously) increases the value of the phone to the user.

Beyond that “sunk cost” of apps, the customer’s use of the apps and the phone over time is another “investment” – the phone becomes more “valuable” because through use, content is created – notes, photos, game achievements, to do lists, etc. This results in a perceived cost to switching, a loss of that created value (which, like the “investment” above, would have to be “respent” with a new phone). This is how the “lock in” happens: the customer personalizes the phone to reflect his or her interests and load it with their own content… and there’s no easy way to “get that stuff out.” Unless, of course, they upgrade to the next version of the iPhone… then it’s easy!

A final point: The factors referenced above were the same reason that Windows has dominated computers for years – the hard and soft cost of the applications and the data that was created in them made it hard for customers to “switch” to another OS. This need to continue to keep customers on Windows, was one of the reasons Microsoft has focused on backwards compatibility with their apps and operating systems. With a new generation of consumers and an active effort by Apple to convince the world that “switching” was a positive painless thing, that is now far less a factor. If rival phone manufacturers want to “break” the lock the iPhone is creating with customers, they would be well advised to take a page out of Apple’s “switch” campaign.

One of a kind.

There’s going to be no shortage of words written about Steve Jobs. I never met him, never knew him. And yet…

I have to write something, more words to add to the rest. Because I’m compelled to.

Steve Jobs died today, at the age of 56. I could spend some of these words detailing what he did and who he was but you already know that stuff. I dare say, that if you are alive today and have had any exposure to technology or mass media, you know who he was. His impact and mark is obvious, historic and cannot be diminished.

I want to spend some words writing about what he believed in.

Like I stated, I never knew him, never met him… and yet, I did know him. His passion, his aesthetic, his values around life and design… He was a man who worked really really hard to made things better. He made technology accessible and by doing so he made people happy. His company was founded to makes products that lets people do more things in a better way. He was uncompromising, focused, and his vision changed the world. He looked at other company’s banal ideas and technology… and showed then how to make things elegant. How to do it right.

I understand such passion. I appreciate it. And… I share it. That’s what I do, too. My job is to design software and make it useable, useful, better. Will I have anywhere near the impact he had? Not a chance. But his passion is my passion and I will continue to work to make things better for people, one moment at a time.

I’ve seen Steve Jobs called “one of a kind.” We are ALL one of a kind, every one of us. We all have the same 24 hours in each day. The measure of a man is what you do with the time you have – the only currency we really have to spend. Steve Jobs made the most of his time, and I aspire to do the same in my own life. I think we all should.

When my Dad died last year, I said that “we are what we leave behind.” Dad left a mess. Steve Jobs leaves a legacy, one that time will not diminish. He used his time on this Earth well. Was he perfect? Of course not. No one is. But Steve Jobs left the world a better place than it was before he was here.

Thanks, Steve.

Try my new iOS app on UX design, Experience Matters

The new app I created on User Experience Design, Experience Matters, is now available in the iTunes store. It covers the latest news in the User Experience domain as well as a continuing stream of articles and reference materials on user experience design from this very site. Intended to keep the UX professional on top of the latest thoughts and tactics in user-centered design, it’s a great tool for novices or experts alike.

You can see more details and download it here.