It is good that there are folks out there doing usability studies on the apps that are coming available for the iPhone/iPad. It seems that there are a lot of apps out there that have been put on the app store with little to no real usability study or design consideration.
I liked the statement about it being important not to simply ask users how they would use an app but actually watch them to try to use it. Watching end-users supply the developers with a bunch of insight as to what is good and bad about their apps.
One frustration I’ve had with my iPhone is the touchable areas being too small or too close to others. It seems that the iPad is no different.
The author mentions how important it is to continue to follow well-established design practices even when you are faced with new technologies. Otherwise, usability will be troublesome. There was even a quote about the first iPad apps having the same types of usability issues that web design had in 1993. Its interesting how we as developers can so quickly forget best practices. We are so excited to work with new technology and “get something working” that everything tends to go by the wayside.
Another thing that is mentioned is how most radical, new ideas are failures, but should still be tried (in a lab, not in a release). It is also stated that most progress comes in small incremental steps.
Scalability is mentioned along with some of the issues of touch screens. About 10 years ago as touch screens were becoming popular, my co-worker and I created an app for nurses that utilized a touch screen. As we started to test, we found the same issues that the author was mentioning. We noticed things like clicking on a cell in a spreadsheet is do-able with a mouse. However, with a finger, it is not as easy. Now, those screens are even smaller with the smartphones. So it is absolutely necessary that developers think of these types of things in the design phase of their projects and not in the test phase.
I find it quite interesting that the push mail task showed usability issues. I would have thought that particular task was not that difficult. I guess that is one of the biggest reasons developers need to allow for usability testing. It really shows just how intuitive a developer can think something is yet the user can see it quite differently.