Archive for May, 2010

The iPad Version

May 14, 2010
CIYP Splash on an iPad

Splash Screen on the iPad

Like many of you, we were pretty excited about the possibilities of what the iPad could offer us. As Steve Jobs said in its unveiling, the iPad sits somewhere between an iPhone and a Mac. The iPad performs as advertised on its core uses. It’s better for reading books, working with email, watching video, flipping through pictures, and playing games. In all of these instances, it’s better than an iPhone with its increased speed and larger screen. It’s better than a computer – even a notebook – as it’s more portable and gives off less heat.

But with this blend of technology comes the inevitable trade-offs. It simply does not work to create or edit professional documents dominated by Microsoft Office. It doesn’t even allow you to edit Google documents. My hope is that the people at DataViz and others come up with suitable workarounds. But it’s not there now. Also, there is no native printing, which is a silly omission. Again, app developers have done a good job trying to fill the gap of what should be core functionality.

So those are our initial thoughts. What about the app you own from us? It’s most likely a congressional directory so let’s take that as the example. We are currently building an app for the iPad that utilizes the same content you have on your iPhone. We could release it tomorrow if we didn’t care what it looked like, or felt like in your hands. And it would be terrible. You’d hate it. I would be a complete fail.

The iPad’s screen is so spacious that we have to redesign the look and feel of the application while keeping what makes it great: the information. Most other mobile applications rely on a list that someone else compiles which means that when you see something wrong, they cannot update it on the fly. In addition to our quarterly phone calls, we get feedback from almost 28,000 users who give us leads on which offices have staff changes, new Twitter accounts, etc.

As we go through the redesign, here are a few thoughts. First, we love the idea of having panes in landscape mode. On the left side you can get the list view with headshots, tap, and get that member’s content on the right side. This is handled well by the folks at MyCongress, who are using an API for their data.

Second, we need bigger headshots. The ones we had made sense for smaller devices but clearly we need to upgrade them. The virtue of having the bigger “heads” (as we call them here) means we’ll be able to port them over to the iPhone as well. So, for example, if you’re looking at a member’s page and tap on the headshot, it will show a much larger version. Tap back and you’ll be back to the info page.

Finally, we need to add value. Who is going to pay for an iPad version if it simply replicates what they already have? The short answer is a lot of folks. For example, our team has repurchased several games that are exactly the same except for the ability not to see a fuzzy “2x” version. To be truthful, we feel kind of let down. What we expected was clearer graphics but we wanted more levels or something that said, “thanks for paying us again for the same thing – here is a little extra something for the effort.”

Current List View on an iPad

Don't you want a better list?

That’s the challenge. Yes, all of the off-app website links will look great on your iPad (especially if they don’t have Flash). You will be able to have more room to send that email about HR 1 to your member of Congress. You’ll be able to see more of our handcrafted information on a screen.

But you expect that.

Current List View on an iPad

The info view is pretty ugly too.

What we have to figure out before we ask for your money again is what features really fit the technology best? We designed the iPhone application to be something you can use on the go. But for iPad users you likely have a little more time. What else would you like to see?

The iPad is a very different device than an iPhone. We are working on bringing you the application ASAP. While we have some ideas, we’d love to hear from you. Many of your great ideas have become features. Thanks again for sharing them with us.