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At my local coffee shop talk of the new Apple iPad mini was on everyone’s lips including the barista behind the counter who unabashedly explained his plans to make an early holiday gift to himself. While Twitter abounds with discussion the pros and cons of Apple’s newest addition to the tablet family, the fact still remains that as reported by CNN pre-orders of the white iPad mini sold out within twenty minutes this morning.

Which means, that from a graphic design point of view the main concern isn’t whether or not the mini is worth getting but rather, what (if any) are the device specific design considerations. At-a-glance, one might be tempted to respond, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a scaled down version of the iPad—right?” Well, yes and no. On the development side, aspect ratio and display resolution (1024×768) are the same as for the iPhone 5 so existing apps are fully supported and will render the same way. But, on the design side the increased portability of the mini in addition to being a 4G device translates into potential differences in consumer usage, differences to consider when designing.


As AdAge writer Jason Del Rey observed Apple’s own marketing positioned the iPad as a device used in a “lean-back setting” shaping the visual approach taken by publishers and advertisers towards larger scale “magazine-style, whole-screen takeovers and ads.” In fact, as reported by eMarketer, in a Q1 2012 study of US tablet owners by Viacom, users reported that they used their devices at home 74% of the time. Aside from potential differences in consumer usage other things to consider are touch area and target tolerances for elements such as links, buttons and navigation. The increased portability also means that users are more likely to use the mini “on-the-go” in contexts where previously a full size tablet may have been cumbersome, such as in-store shopping.

Mobify provides an excellent in-depth analysis here but some of their recommended best practices when designing for the mini are: limiting http requests, good image optimization and proper script and style management. In short, delivering an optimum iPad mini experience most likely means digging deeper than delivering a scaled down version of a desktop site or a scaled up version of your mobile site. All in all, another compelling reason to consider adaptive design.