Emily vs the iPad

Emily and the iPad

Emily and the iPad

Aaargh! I hate this stupid thing! Why won’t it do what I ask it to do!

I heard this cry coming from the living room one evening. My fiancée, Emily, was trying to use my beloved iPad to write an e-mail. “What’s it done this time?”, I politely inquire in response.
“Everything!” came the reply, “All I want to do is send an e-mail, how hard can it be!”

Always wanting to help (like the loving husband-to-be I am) I show her how to copy and paste, move the cursor and find the comma key on e-mail layout keyboards, but then it struck me, why is this so hard? So, I asked her to sit down with me and tell me all of the problems that a real person(tm) has with Apple’s latest gadget.


“Firstly, before I met you, I hadn’t ever used a Mac. I had heard they were just for designers and arty-farty people, but they’re just normal computers for every-day use. This is not about not understanding Macs, this is about the iPad. Also, I love the long battery life, and I really like the screen, it’s brilliant.”

“I’m a Hotmail user, and I can’t get more than 50 messages when I’m using the Mail app. Your GMail account works fine, searches on the server and everything, but Hotmail is a second-class citizen and doesn’t get all the features it should. It also doesn’t sync read/unread items back to the web interface (which I use most of the time) so I don’t know what I’ve read and what I haven’t.”

“There’s no iPad app for Facebook. The iPhone version on the iPad looks rubbish, as do all iPhone-specific apps. The visual quality is really poor and not what I’ve come to expect from the iPad.”

“I’m left-handed, and sometimes the iPad doesn’t pick up the gestures that I make. Tapping on an icon sometimes sends me to the search screen! The whole interface seems to have been made for right-handed people.”

“Moving the cursor around when entering text is painfully slow and really inaccurate. When I’m moving it the magnifying glass is right under my finger so that doesn’t help at all! When my wrist touches the screen the whole screen moves and suddenly jumps to the bottom which is infuriating.”

“It’s heavy. For a girl, it’d be nice to have it in a handbag, but the iPad is too large and heavy for that. It wouldn’t fit in 80% of my handbags and any it would fit in would also take a 13″ laptop, which would be far more useful.”

“I’ve not played many games on any platform so I can’t compare the iPad to anything else like that. Still, the games I play on it are fun, if a little pointless.”

“Getting stuff on to it is hard. iTunes is an issue and if you don’t use Google/MobileMe, something like Dropbox or have your work e-mail on it, it’s even harder to put stuff on it. It needs a USB port to load documents on. The camera connection kit is good, but it’s pretty slow.”

“There’s no Flash support for it, and to me that’s critical. For example, checking the weather on the BBC, I can get the basic information but the radar weather map doesn’t work. Sites that have their own video player, like Wedding TV1 don’t work, and for me, that seriously hampers its usefulness”

“I want web sites to work the same on the iPad as they do on the PC. These ‘Mobile-optimised’ sites are suitable for the iPhone, but not for the iPad and they shouldn’t come up (N.B. this is referring to the Hotmail mobile web interface). I don’t want to have to learn another interface. If I wanted just e-mail, I’ll use the Mail app, but since I want the web site in the browser, show me the actual web site!”

“It’s just not an improvement on a laptop for the situations where I’d use it. If I wanted something that size I’d take a laptop instead as it’s has a DVD drive, all my music and all my web sites.”

“All that said, it’s a brilliant device that has its purposes and has generally replaced the laptop for general Internet browsing, but for what I want something that kind of size to do, it just doesn’t do it.”

1 Yes boys, it exists, it’s on Sky.


These aren’t the typical usability problems that his lordship Neilsen came up with, they represent problems of someone who uses Macs, works with a computer every day, and still has issues getting things done on the iPad. To be honest, some days I do too (discovering that yet another web site uses Flash is a classic).

What gets me is that many of these can be resolved by Apple and their close partners: making Hotmail work better with Mail, doing more testing with left-handed users, Facebook releasing an iPad app, Hotmail turning off the mobile site for the iPad, making the iPad render pixel-doubled iPhone apps properly (I refuse to believe that text can’t be made smooth), and finally making iTunes work better for file management (or enabling people to use explorer/finder).

The moral of the story is whilst you can’t please everyone with your designs, don’t think solely about your target audience. Try to think about the people around them who will use the device and make sure it works for them too. If you’re after a more practical use for this story, learn that the iPad isn’t perfect, in fact, it’s far from it. I still believe it’s the best that’s out there, and I’d love Emily to get her hands on a Galaxy Tablet to compare the two. We’ll have to wait to see what 2011 and Android 3.0 and the BlackBerry Playbook can bring to the table to gauge if the iPad has a real competitor which can make my fiancée happy!

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Steve Workman

Steve Workman is the Head of Web Engineering at Yell. He is also an organiser for London Web Standards is an occasional public speaker, talking about web performance and web standards

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2 Comments

  1. Raj Viswanathan said:

    Hi Steve,

    I love your blog as I too am in the process of making a wedding website and find this to be extremely helpful. I came across this posting from a year and a half ago and it just struck me as something I HAD to comment on. I think almost every single of Emily’s complaints have been addressed in another tablet, The BlackBerry PlayBook. Please see below for my explanation.

    “Firstly, before I met you, I hadn’t ever used a Mac. I had heard they were just for designers and arty-farty people, but they’re just normal computers for every-day use. This is not about not understanding Macs, this is about the iPad. Also, I love the long battery life, and I really like the screen, it’s brilliant.”

    With the exception of the new iPad with retina dispaly, no other tablet matches the pixel density of the PlayBook with battery life that is on par with the iPad while providing you with true multitasking capabilities.

    “I’m a Hotmail user, and I can’t get more than 50 messages when I’m using the Mail app. Your GMail account works fine, searches on the server and everything, but Hotmail is a second-class citizen and doesn’t get all the features it should. It also doesn’t sync read/unread items back to the web interface (which I use most of the time) so I don’t know what I’ve read and what I haven’t.”

    The native mail app on the PlayBook as well as the web interface both work with both hotmail and gmail. In fact the web interface is extremely fluid that you would find yourself using it just as much as using the native application.

    “There’s no iPad app for Facebook. The iPhone version on the iPad looks rubbish, as do all iPhone-specific apps. The visual quality is really poor and not what I’ve come to expect from the iPad.”

    This has since been fixed on iPad and is available on all platforms including the PlayBook.

    “It’s heavy. For a girl, it’d be nice to have it in a handbag, but the iPad is too large and heavy for that. It wouldn’t fit in 80% of my handbags and any it would fit in would also take a 13? laptop, which would be far more useful.”

    at 7″, the PlayBook is perfect for exactly this scenario. It fits into most men’s jacket pocket and women’s handbags. It’s also not nearly as bulky a feel.

    “I’ve not played many games on any platform so I can’t compare the iPad to anything else like that. Still, the games I play on it are fun, if a little pointless.”

    This depends on what kind of games. The PlayBook has a number of free high quality games including Asphalt6, Modern Combat, and Need For Speed in addition to the thousands of Android games that work on the PlayBook since the OS 2.0 upgrade.

    “Getting stuff on to it is hard. iTunes is an issue and if you don’t use Google/MobileMe, something like Dropbox or have your work e-mail on it, it’s even harder to put stuff on it. It needs a USB port to load documents on. The camera connection kit is good, but it’s pretty slow.”

    The PlayBook shows up on your computer as a USB drive when connected and as a network USB drive when wireless sharing is enabled. This means that you simply drag and drop your content onto it as you would into a USB thumb drive/External hard drive.

    “There’s no Flash support for it, and to me that’s critical. For example, checking the weather on the BBC, I can get the basic information but the radar weather map doesn’t work. Sites that have their own video player, like Wedding TV1 don’t work, and for me, that seriously hampers its usefulness”

    “I want web sites to work the same on the iPad as they do on the PC. These ‘Mobile-optimised’ sites are suitable for the iPhone, but not for the iPad and they shouldn’t come up (N.B. this is referring to the Hotmail mobile web interface). I don’t want to have to learn another interface. If I wanted just e-mail, I’ll use the Mail app, but since I want the web site in the browser, show me the actual web site!”

    The PlayBook flash support is the best you will find on ANY tablet. Its browser in fact is ranked better than most desktop browsers on HTML5 tests. So much so that it ranks higher than Safari, Firefox and IE 8.

    source: http://html5test.com/results/tablet.html

    All this and we haven’t even touched on the fact that the UI is slick with bezel features, native multi tasking, HD camera capable of 1080p video recording, and an HDMI port that lets you play your content on the big screen without any additional accessories, all for a price less than half that of the iPad.

    I’d be curious to find out if you have tried it and what you think of it? I know that the general review for the product has been less than stellar but as someone who has been using it for the last year, I can confidently say that it’s got a bad reputation for the few things it doesn’t do well and not being recognized for the many things it does exceptionally well.

  2. Steve Workman said:

    Hi Raj,

    I can’t speak for Emily, but I have tried the Playbook, and whilst it is smaller, and has many more features with version 2 of the software, I still prefer the iPad. When I wrote this article, it was for the 1st generation iPad. Now, on the third generation, things have changed, and we’ve changed as well. It’s a content consumption device and we now use Dropbox almost exclusively, which solves getting content onto it. The flash problem has disappeared on most websites, and it’s not one of our TV consumption devices anyway. The thing with apps and the iPad is there is almost always going to be an iOS app to do what you want to do, and for the Playbook I’d rate that chance at < 25%. The thing for me is that a Playbook works well if you're a Blackberry user. We're not, and I'm 99% sure we never will be. The iPad works well for us, even if it's not something Emily would carry around in her handbag. The slot in her handbag has been taken up by something far smaller and lighter: the Amazon Kindle. Since she got that, all the complaints have gone away. Thanks for your comments, and good luck with your wedding! Steve

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