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Elanora Brown
Contributor
Case Study: iPads for Education website
Elanora Brown, contributor
Although we’ve all been raving about the iPad for quite some time now, there are surprisingly few really good quality sites that have been optimized for iPad use. Most sites simply present their traditional generic desktop browser version- which works well enough, but misses the opportunity to really tailor user experience to this format, and utilize the specific features the iPad offers.

In late 2010, theVictorian Government Department of Education & Early Childhood Development (DEECD) approached us with a project. They were running a program called iPads for Education, in which iPadswere used in Victorian schools to determine their feasibility and best practice applications. To showcase the program, they wanted a public website that was heavily optimized for the iPad.

We used this opportunity to really explore the possibilities for leveraging presentation and content to best utilise the iPad, One of the great benefits is that you can build to a single operating system, one browser, and one fixed resolution. That means you can fully utilize HTML 5 and CSS3, which opens up some great possibilities.

Optimising websites for the iPad involves rethinking how content and interactivity can be presented.Some of the key considerations include:

Fixed Resolution


It’s important to consider that the iPad screen works to a fixed resolution, which means you have a constrained space to work with. Of course, it’s easy to get around this by using lots of scrolling, but in this case we disciplined ourselves to come up with smart and efficient ways of using the screen space to enhance interactivity and usability.

Orientation


The screen orientation flips when the user turns the iPad on its side- so to make the most of this feature, orientation is a key consideration. We developed a solution by getting our graphic designers involved as well as the programmers, to make sure we had the best visual appeal as well as functionality.

Interactivity


Viewing a site on the iPad is a different experience than browsing on a desktop. Rather than scrolling and clicking, there are different user functions like swiping, touching, dragging and dropping that influence how your visitors will interact with your site.

The challenge is to match these functions against the site map and deciding on the best combinations for optimum usability. For example, we decided:

•\tTouch worked well for the main menu, which had larger buttons.
•\tDrag and drop was a good choice for the Multimedia Gallery, so users could easily enlarge photos and play videos.
•\tSwiping on the home page would allow visitors to view more of the feature case studies. This was a good solution to the limited screen real estate on the home page, so we could now use the same space to present a large range of items.

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