Saturday, March 06, 2010

iPad, you know—for the kids

A friend just sent me an article on the iPad being the "children's toy of the year." The first thing I thought of was the "hula hoop" scenes in the Coen Brothers' Hudsucker Proxy {1994}::

The article links to a large number of videos on YouTube with kids using iPhones. This reminds me of how PARC-Xerox had their Alto Computers in schools in the 1970s, with the idea that if kids can use the technology, anyone can. A triumph of usability.

Image:: Children programming on an Xerox Alto, from the Weekly Squeak

The article mades a good case for why iPad is well-suited for kids::
  1. The usability is intuitive & kids are attracted to the touch interface
  2. There are many apps already aimed at kids
  3. Parents have been giving kids their old iPhones & this would give kids their own device
  4. Parents will spend $500 for an technological pacifier
  5. It creates a multimedia platform that can be aimed at childrens' content
I'd also add the cool factor. I'm wondering how much Apple is coordinating with educators and content creators/software publishers that have a kid focus. Maybe there will be a Pixar iPad video game that won't suck, given Steve Jobs' Disney ties.

No matter what the target market is, the iPad needs compelling content and/or institutional buy-in {e.g., schools} to get people to adopt the platform. 

I've been thinking a lot about usability for the startup, in terms of web and mobile. One of my students said he wasn't a fan of Apple, but when he got an iPod, he found it so intuitive and easy to use. The issues we're up against is having a platform where users are managing their data and how can this be an intuitive process. I think managing libraries is an area that needs development. What is an intuitive way to access data that minimizes user effort? Using Jakob Neilsen quality of usability components, I'm thinking of how these can be applied to search and tagging content::
  1. Learnability: How easy is it for the users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  2. Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  3. Memorability: When users return to the design after a period not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  4. Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  5. Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
I've been looking at the Sugar interface for One Laptop per Child to get ideas on how to get users to do tasks that help categorize files, but possibly interrupt the flow of the task. The advantage of tagging is to facilitate search beyond filenames for multimedia content. Here are some screenshots of the older and newer interface::

I'm also intrigued my machine transcription via Google's YouTube, where transcribed text can be part of metadata.

Twitterversion:: Link to article on iPad, you know—for the kids & thoughts on usability for complex tasks that even kids can use it. @Prof_K

Song:: Iggy and the Stooges-"Search and Destroy"

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