Howcast for iPad: Contently designed.

I wasn’t familiar with the Howcast video service until the iPad app showed up. Howcast is a service which serves video tutorials for the those little things that make our day better. Those lifehack kind of things.

Anyway, the iPad app shows up, and Howcast’s UX designer Brendon Manwaring was kind enough to share some of their design philosophies behind the app. Mind you I’ve downloaded the free app, and totally agree with Brendon’s design ideals—they totally work for this kind of video content. Brendon:

Testing Navigation Barriers: The iPad has opened a new set of opportunities to rethink the way we interact with user interfaces. Orientation is no longer constrained; up can be down, left can be right. One of things we noticed was that, when watching a video on the iPad, it felt far more natural to hold the device on the left and right and yet the primary navigations elements were on the top and bottom. I began to wonder what it would be like to have the controls on the left and/or right and within a thumbs’ reach. So we designed and built for it, and while it’s not perfect, I think it’s going in the right direction. It also allows for there to be less on the screen at any given time so you can focus on the video and not what’s next. Instead you can simply open and close it with a simple press (or flick) of your thumb when you need it. And, of course, we left in the standard “tap” to see timeline and volume controls.

Pushing the way we watch video: Most of our how-to content is broken up into steps. Up until now the obvious solution to navigating is to either press and drag the scrubber bar or press a “next” or “previous” button. But with the iPad we’ve also designed for hand gestures; swipe to the right for the next step, and to the left for the previous step. In time, we’d like to implement other hand gestures as well, but it’s a pretty cool start.

How-to’s in all their glory: Again, the web has failed (up to this point at least) to allow Howcast to integrate both video and written guide the way that the iPad has. Since the majority of our content is also a mix of video and text guides, we designed this app to allow the user to move seamlessly between video and guide with the press of a button, and without interrupting the video itself. It’s also pretty impressive to be able to watch the video on a smaller scale on the left (in guide mode) while reading the text guide on the right.

Thanks to Brendon for sharing that, and the free app that’s on my iPad. Hopefully I’ll learn something from this, too.

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