Some iPad-Optimized Apps Can Be Confusing, Study Says

May 29, 2011 6:00 AM PST

FREMONT, Calif. — A new study shows that many iPad apps aren’t user-friendly and that people don’t know how to navigate them.

The report, released by Nielsen Norman Group, found that the apps are too subtle about the gestures needed to navigate them and aren’t sensitive enough to the accuracy of fingertips, ArsTechnica reported.

The researchers also found that many companies, that have functional websites, are wasting their time making a less-functional iPad app.

One of the problems the researchers found was the ambiguous implementation of navigation techniques. Apps often times weren’t clear about which parts of the screen were tappable and where users needed to swipe or scroll, confusing users.

The researchers discovered that the appeal of an iPad app increased when it was more functional than the company’s website. Some apps also confused uses because they lacked a back button.

Other apps caused problems for users because they favored visual interest over functionality, with buttons placed too close together for the average finger to hit accurately.

Some apps also crowded popover menus into too small windows to keep the background visible.

The researchers said that companies should avoid splash screens that don’t integrate well with the app especially long introduction sequences. They also added that far too many companies are releasing suboptimal versions of their content just to get in on the platform.

They said that iPad apps should not make users do more work than the actual websites.

The apps should be geared toward the actions of repeat users who are already familiar with the brand or simply just make their website more finger-friendly.

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