…And it’s shiny

As some of you may know, this quarter I’m working on developing an iPad-native magazine.  Because the iPad is so new, it presents a unique challenge.  Basically, the only thing we know about iPad users are their basic demographics and that, for the most part, they don’t really know how they’re using the tablet.  What I mean is, iPad users don’t know if they want interactivity or static pages, they don’t know if they want videos to autoplay or to wait for their cue, and they certainly don’t know what an iPad magazine should look like.

Which should make our job really easy, right?

Just take the best of what is out there, and combine it into something shiny and new, and there you go: an iPad magazine.

Except that it’s hard to start without a starting point.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs has a philosophy regarding user testing.  To paraphrase: people don’t have any idea what they want until we tell them that they want it.  I like this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it would mean I don’t have to stalk iPad users in coffee shops to ask them to do a “card-sorting” activity, whatever that is.  What I really like though is the idea that, while subject and tone can be determined by audience interviews and market research, the way it is all packaged and presented may not even exist yet.  And instead of asking people what they like, which, inevitably, will be limited to what they’ve already experienced, we can tell people what they’re going to like a year from now by dreaming up something people didn’t even know they wanted (ahem, iPod).

There is also this intangible quality that the iPad has by virtue of its newness.  Everything that is created for it right now is cool and innovative.  We’re just on the cusp of that no longer being the case, the point at which people have enough experience with this shiny new toy to know what they like, and more importantly, what they don’t.

But right now, in this moment (or at least the moment that lasts between now and Christmas), why not tell people what they like and need in an iPad magazine and shift the conversation that is happening around this new device?