iPad Apps and Social Media

In case you didn’t already know, I’m the owner of an iPad. Like a lot of other people I didn’t get it when it first was announced: like everyone else, I thought it was meant to be a laptop replacement. It’s not. While you can use the iPad to get things done, be a content producer, and a publisher (look for more details in an upcoming post), it really wasn’t meant for that (see iPad was made for everyone but us). It’s a consumption device. Having spent a few weeks with mine, I have a few thoughts about what makes a good iPad app and what you can do to get more out of yours should you build one.

In my opinion the ability to synchronize to a website or cloud based data, is a key component…

For those of you who don’t have an iPad, a brief primer: applications that were written for the iPad use the full screen and work better than apps written just for the iPhone. All iPhone apps will run on an iPad, but, unless they have an iPad component, they run miniaturized and (quite simply) suck. The experience is like going back to an amber monochromatic dumb terminal. It’s wholly unsatisfying. The Facebook app is this way, so I just run the normal Facebook website on my iPad.

Being a consumer device, one the things I use it for is reading the news. Some of the apps I use are the NPR app, USA Today app, BBC app, and New York Times Editors Choice app. You can see screen shots for each of the apps below.

From a social media perspective, there are a few things you want from an app. First and foremost is the ability to ability to interact with the outside world, especially through social media sites. At a bare minimum, you want the ability to email links out of the app. All of the apps have this ability, however that’s the only option the New York Times offers. IMHO if that’s all you are going to offer, you’re missing out. By contrast, all of the other apps offer you the ability to post links to Facebook and Twitter. Now you could make the argument that Twitter adoption among the mainstream population is fairly low, but iPad users probably have a higher Twitter adoption rate than the general population, so including it is a good idea. You can see screen shots from the individual stories for each of the apps below.

For greater interaction allow users to share information links to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instapaper …

Another trait you should strive to achieve is offline or cloud synchronization. Despite the fact that RSS isn’t used by the general population (see the big fat RSS lie), I still find it very useful. I like to use the Newsrack app because it allows me to read the feeds I am subscribed to and it synchronizes with Google reader, so it doesn’t matter where I read things. Newsrack also lets me send things to Instapaper. The Instapaper app is another great tool that synchronizes across my iPad, iPhone, and Instapaper website. So when I’m at the gym, I can catch up on my reading while I’m on the treadmill.

In my opinion, the ability to synchronize to a website or cloud based data is a key component. I like to cook, and another app I like and use regularly is the Epicurious app. Within the app I can add a star to my favorite recipes. When I use the Epicurious website, I can add recipes to my recipe box. They may have different names and perform differently behind the scenes, but the user intent is the same: flag something important to remember later. IMHO my recipe box or favorites should be shared across the website, iPad, and iPhone. The Epicurious app also lets you mail recipes to yourself. The mail comes complete with a list of ingredients and instructions and is quite handy. However, it would also be nice to Tweet or share to Facebook from the app as well. The amount of Facebook fans and participation that Foodtv and Sur La Table have is impressive. And look at how someone like The Spice House uses Twitter: there is consumer engagement, traffic, and ultimately customers to be gained there.

So if you’re thinking of designing an application for the iPad or thinking about updating your existing iPhone app, here are my recommendations :

  • At the bare minimum, allow people to email links to themselves
  • For greater interaction, allow users to share information links to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instapaper
  • Consider the core functions that your customers or users will want. Then look for ways to synchronize these actions across multiple platforms, including the website, iPad, iPhone, blackberry, smart phone, android phone

photo credit: myuibe

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