The iPad at Work: Observations from a Programmer, Designer and QA Expert

When the iPad was announced last January, starry-eyed Apple fans (including Intrideans) rushed to get their orders in. Some Apple fans grumbled about the iPad being just an oversized iPhone, but many of the out-spoken protestors were also quietly trying to justify the impending purchase they were about to make. After all, how could an Apple fan turn their back on such an exciting device? Sure, it might just be a huge iPhone, but you have to have it — because it’s a HUGE iphone!

In an effort to find out how well the iPad holds up for professional use, I asked three Intrideans to share their user experiences. I gave enough time for the initial euphoria to wear off, and now we’ve got some great insight into how a developer, designer and QA manager are using the iPad at work!

Our Director of Mobile Development, Brendan Lim, shares his observations on how the portability of the iPad has changed his day to day routine:

Being a gadget-head, self-proclaimed Apple fanboy, and a developer, I could not help but be excited when the iPad was released. There have been other attempts at making a tablet computer, all of which have been failures, including Newton, Apple’s first attempt at this kind of device. But times have changed and due to the success of the iPhone, the world was finally ready for a device such as the iPad.

Bridging the gap between a laptop and a smartphone, the iPad aims to help bring ubiquitous computing to the masses. All of us with iPhones or other multi-touch devices were ready to interact with a device such as the iPad. The iPhone and other smartphones were great but you would never want to spend too much time browsing the internet with them I use my iPhone when I have a quick moment to check up on something, post or share small amounts of content, but I would never use it to do any kind of long term computing.

For work, the iPad is a dream. Around my home-office I use the iPad as a device for managing all of my tasks within Things for iPad. I can keep my tasks synced between my laptop so I know exactly what I have to accomplish for any project that I am working on wherever I am as long as I have my iPad. I also will use my iPad to keep up with our conversations in Present.ly on a separate screen.

With the iPad, I’ve replaced my laptop as my go-to device when I’m not working and want to do some quick browsing or reading around my home. My laptop functions as a desktop in my office. I used to have to disconnect all my wires, grab my extra power brick, and drag that into the living room. I certainly don’t miss doing that anymore. My laptop is now mainly for work and writing/composing heavy content and doing photo/video editing.

Portability with the iPad is a big win. I now have a device that I can use anywhere without having to worry about lugging around my big 17" laptop. I have spoken at two conferences since buying my iPad and I love that I can work on my slides on my iPad using the Keynote application and even display my presentation to the audience with it. Having a 3G iPad really opens up the places where I can stay connected and continue to work and keep up with everybody in my social circle.

As a developer, the iPad opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The iPhone was a huge success for app developers around the world. The iPad is already proving to be the same. With so much real-estate, new user-interface elements to work with, and new ways that people interact with the device, the future is exciting. Right now there are only about 4,000-5,000 iPad specific apps, which means there are so many great apps waiting to be created. Apple truly has created something that has changed the mobile landscape.

Brendan Lim, Director of Mobile Development

Our incredibly talented designer, David Potsiadlo, talks about the bright future of the iPad, how it has affected his productivity, and shares his musings on how the iPad will change web design in general.

As both a designer and general web & tech enthusiast, the introduction of an iPad into my daily life has been a wholly terrific experience. It’s like that cliche saying, “throwing a wrench in the gears”, but the exact opposite: instead, it makes everything to do with the web that much more exciting.

This enthusiasm applies to tablet and touchscreen computing in general. I am quite certain this has a tremendously bright future, as the overall joy of this new user experience is something special to behold. As a designer, this is quite the exciting time.

A few weeks into the post-iPad world, I am most fascinated with the shift in UX context introduced by this new medium. No longer can we assume users are either “sitting at a desk” or “browsing on their phone.” The iPad falls somewhere in between, and now “web view” and “mobile view” will both need to reexamine themselves to account for this new user type.

We are also looking at a whole new world of interface interaction. For example, websites whose UIs depend on hovering are in trouble, as this basic behavior isn’t possible without a mouse. Will we see iPad specific versions of each website? I wouldn’t necessarily count on it. Why not just make your standard website iPad friendly?

Finally, from a designer productivity point of view, the iPad has been a pleasant surprise. I’ve found the iPad has almost entirely replaced my laptop’s presence in my living room, but this hasn’t stopped me from needing a quick outlet to get a design idea down in visual form. The app Adobe Ideas (free) has some basic sketching capability which has allowed me to get some very basic wireframe ideas down quickly. I can then email these to myself, and skip the whole would-be process of sketching on paper, not losing that paper, digitizing that paper’s content, etc.

Overall, very excited about the floodgates this device has opened. I am sure we will all be surprised how this will change things in the next year and beyond.

David Potsiadlo, Web Designer

Our QA Manager, Maggie Lubberts, talks about justifying the purchase and how the iPad assists her in task management.

When Steve Jobs announced the impending arrival of the iPad I began doing what many gadget geeks began doing: justifying. If you have an iPhone, and you have a MacBook, why on earth do you need an iPad? It’s a difficult question to answer (especially when answering your spouse), and if I’m honest, I knew I was being a tiny bit ridiculous when I bought it. I could come up with a hundred different use case scenarios to justify my purchase (what if my laptop AND my iPhone were malfunctioning ... and I needed to check my checking account balance and play Settlers of Catan?!?)

At the time I thought I was being a silly early adopter (not the first time). After using one for a few weeks though, I can honestly say that I still use it daily, it’s my preferred method of accessing data online, and It has actually improved my workflow!

Many users have lamented over the lack of multitasking, but for me, this “missing” feature is a bonus all on its own. Whenever I want to get something done, compose an extended email, read through a technical manual, or organize a daily to-do list without interruption I pick up the iPad. I can complete a task, using the full depth of my attention, without being distracted by the million different social networks begging my attention at once. There aren’t any notifications from Instant Messaging or Present.ly to get in the way, and I can work from start to finish on a task which isn’t often something I can do on my laptop.

I’m in the business of QA, and it’s been nice to be able to give feedback to developers based on an iPad’s browsing experience; but even beyond that, I’ve started using it as an extension of my desktop. I’m constantly having to refer to lists, whether it’s a to-do list of the different projects I need to handle throughout the day or a list of release notes or tickets filed in Unfuddle or Pivotal. It’s nice to be able to have my lists on the iPad, almost as if it were another display. Since I work for the most part without an external monitor, the 13 inches of my laptop screen turns into pricey real-estate once I’m logged into all the tools I need to use daily. Being able to view a list of bugs on the iPad while verifying they’ve actually been fixed on my laptop means I have to spend far less time using spaces to find my list in another browser window. This has been a huge time-saver that I didn’t really expect, but have been genuinely enjoying.

Also, if you’re someone who thrives on to-do lists, Things for the iPad is amazing. It syncs wirelessly to your desktop list as well, and it has a super simple and incredibly user friendly interface for organization. It feels better being able to check the items off on the iPad, and displaying the list throughout the day where I can see it has been endlessly useful. I never reach for a pen and paper to jot down a note or an idea anymore; I pick up the iPad and use Adobe’s free “Ideas” app to sketch it out and then email it to myself. I can’t lose an email as easily as I can a tiny note card, or a list scribbled on the back of an old envelope, and it keeps my lists/ideas accessible from the cloud at all times, so I’m never caught without the information I need. As long as I have the iPad with me, I can update the information as the need arises.

I’m really excited to continue figuring out how the iPad can help me in my daily work life, and I’m still learning all the ways it is useful in my non-work life as well. My initial impression is this: If you like using the internet, you’ll like using an iPad. It feels like my mouse and keyboard have only been in the way of my accessing the www up to this point, and getting them out of the equation has allowed me to connect with the content I love to browse in a whole new and immersive way.

Maggie Lubberts, QA Manager

All three Intrideans dote on the portability of the device, the ease of task management, and how the iPad has placed itself in their homes as a bridge between an iPhone (which is too small to do any extended work on) and a laptop (which can be a beast to lug around all the time). In the last month, I’ve been watching people working on their iPads at bus stations, airports, restaurants, and coffee shops. It’s like the iPad was a device we never knew that we needed. Until Apple gave it to us.