My wife babysat my year and a half old niece this morning. I woke up to that unmistakable toddler laugh and the fear of an un-child-proofed house. I rushed to hide a few of my treasured items and made sure I had my iPad within arms reach.
You see, over the Christmas break, my niece got ahold of my iPad without me noticing. Luckily, I caught her before she could do anything too harmful.
Rather than stick the iPad in her mouth or drop it to the ground though, she became immersed in the iPad. She flipped between the pages of apps and pressed the home button a few times. I then opened Paper and she proceeded to scribble her finger around. She’s a year and a half old.
My moment of observation turned into a topic of fascination — how many items in your household can be used by a person of any age? My grandparents are capable of using an iPad, my parents own an iPad, I use an iPad and now my niece is capable of using an iPad. That’s 85 years of iPad.
Some products can not be designed for toddlers. Coffee makers should be toddler proof and lighters should remain out of the hands of young children. There are many devices that shouldn’t be used by people of all ages and I’m glad to see appropriate design safety is still properly practiced.
Apple set out to create a computer for the masses. With every iteration, the iPad increasingly embodies the role of an “every day computer” for the majority of people. As its power increases and as iOS software improves, the iPad becomes more and more useful. And more and more, that device can be used by people of literally all ages.
I don’t believe Apple intended for the iPad to be used by toddlers. Certain nuances in iOS would be more protruded had Apple designed the iPad for toddlers — the sizing of navigational buttons and the size of text may have been changed for greater accessibility. But even these options can be found in the accessibility menu.
Whatever the case, I think this simple usability is more a by-product of the barebones design of iOS. A single home button acts as the default “What do I do now?” button. Home screen icons are large and provide instantaneous reaction to a finger. And now, even the size and weight of the iPad allows for increased usability for very young children.
The only way for young and old to find usability in the iPad is for designers to strip away all excess and leave only the rational essentials. Reason is unique to human beings and this reasoning is found naturally among all humans, young and old. iOS is so simple, so refined, so effective that its operation is done through reasoning alone. A single button must take a user back to where they started. Your finger must be the input to draw or navigate. To achieve pure usability, interaction must take place through pure reason and pure reason only.
The ramifications of a simple operating system on an even simpler piece of hardware are vast. We are only beginning to see the consequences of computers designed for humans, both good and bad.
And to think that my niece is going to grow up with no knowledge of a life without iPads. This unique circumstance will present new opportunities and new burdens for her generation. I can only hope those burdens can be worked with as easily as today’s devices.