The Obstacles in Designing for a Tablet Experience

by Clarissa Johnstone

Design for Mobile and Tablet

When designing the UI/UX for a mobile/tablet experience, I believe the number one rule to keep in mind is “keep it simple”. Whether it’s a mobile view on a responsive website or a tablet app, you want the user experience to be as streamlined as possible; however, this doesn’t mean that there is any less work that goes into the planning and design process.

Flowcharts are your friend

Prior to any sort of design or prototyping, I start by laying out a good old flowchart. At this point, it's crucial to add in every possible step the user will take. With everything thought through, even to the point of redundancy, I can then look for the steps that can be consolidated. I repeat the process until I have the least amount of steps possible in the user's path. Once the flowchart has been finalized and approved, the design process begins. Clean, streamlined, and simple design sounds like it might be a little easier to produce in theory, but often times the thought and effort is in line with a complex design. When you've got fewer design elements to fill the space, you really have to focus and be intentional about the layout. Limiting the "frills" means a lot of thought needs to go into any emphasis or visual intrigue you incorporate.

Intuition is Key

A successful design will draw the user's attention to the correct areas and elements in the proper order to achieve intended UX goals. This can be quite the challenge when trying to keep things clean and simple. Considerations must be taken when repeating colors or design elements across the design. If the interface becomes too evenly balanced, would the user feel stuck? What's leading process along? I try to work in unique design elements per screen to bring enough attention to that process. We never want a user to think: “Where do I start?”, “Where do I go next?” or “Where can I find what I’m looking for?” As a designer, I believe intuition is key for tablet experiences. If a user has to stop and think about what he or she is supposed to do next, or if it takes a number of touches to find an important screen, the design is clearly not going to cut it. Additionally, users will be looking to achieve different things, so planning and feedback are vital to designing with all potential goals in mind.

It's an Obstacle Course

Each project comes with its own set of obstacles, and it’s the UI/UX designer’s job to try and figure out the best way through the obstacle course in the quickest time possible. This usually comes with a few slides off the rope swings, many tries to get over the climbing wall, and a few face plants while trying to jump over the mud puddles. But when you finally reach the finish line in as few steps as possible, it makes all the planning and hard work worth your while, not to mention your clients’, and most importantly, the end user.