iPad: A Saviour for Web Design, Too!

Five examples of websites whose design screams for tablet interaction.

We recently covered what the iPad should do for magazines and newspapers. Let's flip it. Just as print media should benefit from the iPad's promise of a more leisurely, book-like reading experience, website design should benefit as well.

Several websites have tried to push the boundaries of what a site can be by becoming more magazine-like. But they're still hobbled by the clunkiness of the screen/keyboard/mouse combo. Here's five type of website designs that were somewhat ahead of their time--and that have really been screaming for the iPad all along:

1. MoCo Loco: Image-rich horizontal scrolling

MoCoLoco

On your computer screen, the MoCoLoco looks nice--indeed, it must have been beautiful in Photoshop. But in practise, all those images and tight spacing making for head-spinning navigation. On an iPad, where the scrolling reduces to a simple series of fluid gestures the website immediately becomes 1000% better.

2. It's Nice That: Dead-simple Image Curation

It's Nice That

Even simple designs stand to benefit from a tablet format. It's Nice That is about as simple and clean as websites come--but when you point/click/scroll, the limitations become clear. The carefully selected images become a jumble whizzing by your screen--all too easy to ignore, and contributing to a blur of visual noise. A site design that allows you to "flip" pages rather than scroll would solve that problem immediately--and preserve the carefully curated nature of the site.

3. Pictory: Huge images, visual storytelling

Pictory

Pictory is loaded with with interesting photography alondside short narration of the pictures. And that's a problem. The images are so huge that on a computer, they overwhelm your screen. The accompanying text is dwarfed, and it hurts your brain to switch between looking at each one. On the iPad, that's not a problem. You'd want an image to take up the entire screen. And you can then handle the text either on a separate page or as a layover on the image--far more intuitive.

4. The Selby: Image-rich tiling

Selby

The Selby is filled with lovely at-home photography---the page navigation itself, while utterly straightforward, is less than ideal. Each image shows up a large tile that you can click on for a bigger version. (Tiling being something of the rage among some web designers.) That's a clunky hunt-and-peck want to consume images. If you can simply touch the image you like, then all of that friction disappears immediately. With a bit of clever redesigning, a site like The Selby could readily become as compelling as the latest issue of Dwell.

5. New York Magazine: A magazine disguised as a newspaper on the web

New York Magazine

If you're at all used to the simplicity of scrolling down a single column of blog content, the New York website will give you an aneurysm. In an attempt to place all of their myriad sections and stories up front, they've produced a page that looks a little like the high-design equivalent of the Million Dollar Homepage. To be fair, that's a natural outcome of trying to force a magazine onto the web--unlike blogs, which have either a singular subject or focus only on the day's news, magazines content is a comparative zoo, suited to dozens of disparate audiences. A homepage like New York comes about because you don't want to hassle readers by making them click for sections. With iPad, that friction again is far lower--a touch is far easier than a point-and-click, meaning that pages can become simpler and rely on the user to drill down to what they like. Moreover, even highly complex layouts become more legible if you're leaning back and absorbing the entire page at once, like you would on an iPad.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Flash. The iPad really screams for a more book-like web browsing experience. But how do you do that without Flash, which has always been shut out of the iPhone/iPad operating system? Stay tuned.

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