iPad Mini: “Dear browsers, can we please agree that 10 cm is actually TEN CENTIMETERS?”

Designing for all these different phone and tablet sizes is a huge mess, notes publishing consultant and author Thomas Baekdal. With the release of the iPad Mini, yet another format was added to the ever growing list. The problem is that the iPad mini has the same resolution as its bigger brother. This has an impact on your font size as an app designer or site designer, he writes:

Because the screen is rendering the apps in the same resolution, the actual font size appear about 3pt smaller on the iPad mini.

In other words, it’s very likely that your font size will be too small to read in a comfortable way on the iPad Mini.

iPad Mini: better hope your readers have their glasses handy?

So what do you do? Hope that people will have glasses handy?

There’s a few solutions, writes Baekdal. One is to make sure your app checks which device it’s used on. Unfortunately, it’s not sure whether the iPad Mini will tell your app that it’s a mini. The other solution is to design everything for the iPad Mini and just blow it up a bit for the bigger iPad, he writes (this reminds me of the first iterations of the LinkedIn app which was actually an iPhone app that you could increase in size by tapping an “x2″ icon). There is also a third solution, says Baekdal:

There is also a third solution, which is that we should abandon using pixels to define our formats. Pixels only works if our screens have the same dpi, but they don’t. And as a result we get the mess that you see above.

A much better solution is to design like we do in print, using centimeters (or inches). That way, we could say that ‘this box’ should be 10 centimeters wide and it would be 10 centimeters on all our devices, regardless of screen resolution, dpi, etc. Same thing with fonts. You would define the font size in how big it should be in centimeters, and that would then be the font size regardless of what device or screen people use.

This would solve all our problems, but, alas, the people who make browsers are complete nincompoops. They have apparently never heard of the ruler. Here is a simple example. I took this picture earlier today of a box that I had defined to be 10 centimeters in width … and as you can see, all the boxes are in different sizes. The actual size of a box defined as “width: 10cm;”

  • Cinema Display: 10.1cm
  • Macbook Pro Retina: 8.7cm
  • iPad: 7.2cm
  • iPad Mini: 5.7cm (estimate)
  • Nexus 7: 5.9cm
  • iPhone: 5.9cm

When I define something to be 10 centimeters, it should be 10 centimeters. What part of that does the browser manufacturers not understand?

Read more at Publishers, Beware of the iPad Mini (by @baekdal) #analysis.

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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