Apple just released the new 2020 Ipad Pro. And with this Ipad, Apple provides a new way to interact with the Ipad: a mouse or a trackpad 🖱️. You will see with this article that behind the obvious feature it might be, Apple, like always, took the time to not just implement it but to reinvent it. And I will show you how it can open new possibilities for all platforms.
I always keep up to date about the cutting edges Ux technologies. I like to predict what will be the Ux technologies of the future in the research field, but I also like to see what real business companies really implement for our day-to-day life.
And one company I always keep in mind in Apple. I am not an Apple fanboy but as a Ux researcher, this company has two key points. First, it might be THE company that pushes Ux to the next level at no compromises. Marques Brownlee speaks about over-engineering about the lastest 2020 Mac Pro for example.
That's why the products are so expensive even when the performances are sometimes not good. The second but maybe most important key point: a lot of people are using the Apple ecosystem. So when Apple revolutionizes a feature, it has automatically a big impact on the IT industry.
A short history of Ipad inputs
Since the very first beginning in 2010, Ipad was made to be used with fingers. So that you need nothing else than the Ipad to use the Ipad: a great point for mobility, the initiative of Apple with the Ipad.
With Ipad Pro 2018, Apple introduced the stylus, a way to interact with the Ipad using a pencil. The stylus was a way to allow new experiences like note-taking and drawing and so bring the Ipad to new users in their working life.
Then, several YouTubers tried the Ipad pro only challenge (Unbox Therapy, Marques Brownlee) to see if it was possible to replace their computer by a tablet. So we saw a real need (or at least curiosity) to bridge the gap between Ipad and productivity. And this productivity comes with a real keyboard and a mouse/trackpad.
And by chance (or voluntary, to test the feature?), Apple released in 2019 an accessibility feature showing a cursor. And so a lot of articles popped up online about how to trick Ipad OS to use a real mouse.
Now March 2020, despite the COVID-19 crisis, Apple released the new 2020 Ipad Pro and with it, real mouse support.
BUT! Big surprise! Apple didn't just implement the basic cursor. Apple created a full new experience around this cursor. If you didn't see the video below, watch it before continuing the reading.
Is this Ux better or worst than cursor implement existing for decades in computers? I decided to give it a try to get my own impressions away from Apple marketing.
The computer cursor looks like it ⬇️. An arrow, black or white that may slightly change into a hand or other small icons depending on the context.
The new one looks like a disk that takes the shape of the widgets you want to interact with.
Dave Lee published a great video about this cursor. As always with Dave Lee, it is very exhaustive so don't hesitate to check it out.
I see 3 main Ux impacts with a cursor like this:
- kind of obvious but it's … different. People who already used a mouse and see cursors on screens might be disturbed.
- it breaks Fitts' law and seems to be less efficient for productivity than a real cursor but more efficient for basic tasks in particular for people not comfortable with a mouse (remember that Ipad is very used by older people that may have never used a computer).
- like a tooltip, the user gets information about how to interact just by moving the cursor hover any widget. On a computer, how to interact might not be useful since you only have left, middle and right clicks. But now with touchpads, IpadOS and macOS love to use gestures, long click, forced click, etc. Computer cursor can also change to give information but not at this level.
In the Ipad ecosystem, Apple does whatever it wants. But I decided to see if this new cursor could be used outside IpadOS. For example, on a website.
Ipad cursor on websites
So I implemented a very simple interface and tried to replicate the same cursor as new IpadOS one. The prototype is available here. Try it it's free 😆!
With my first iteration I naively tried to use basic CSS properties:
After several hours of using this interface, these are my feedbacks
At the opposite of Ipad which is a very closed ecosystem, browser and more globally computer OS are more open. It means that changing the cursor from a web page to another could really disturb the users.
When you use a computer-cursor for 20 years or more, you are used to it, you are good at it. For people without a handicap, this kind of cursor is less efficient than the default cursor while they are sitting in front of their screen with a mouse or a trackpad.
But from my humble point of view, there are two situations where this cursor could be used:
- When you need robustness: if you have a handicap or if your mouse is not on a rigid surface, it may be easier to target the widgets. I can be for better than my naive implementation if you implement some kind of magnetization. I couldn't do it because of browser limitations (you can't force the mouse position).
- When you want to force the user to slow down and to enjoy the present moment with your application.
I see two situations where Ipad cursor is useful. The first one is not currently relevant for computers since computer-mouses are most of the time on rigid surfaces: trackpads are on the top of computers so obviously on a rigid. And users often use the mouse on desks. Besides, the browser constraints don't allow us to increase the robustness.
However, I am very excited about the second situation. We could image showcase or portfolio websites using this kind of cursor as part of a persuasive design to incite the user to better enjoy the websites.
And for sure, the use cases will definitely increase with the time. I will post new updates in the few weeks to go further in this direction.
In conclusion, this new way to display cursor is not a revolution but may still give a new way for developers and designers to deliver new smooth and chill user experiences.
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