(Again, let me turn your attention to The Mindmap Blog's "Mindmapping Thought Leaders Share Best Practices in London" for each speaker's video.)
Craig Scott: iThoughts
The second speaker at the Biggerplate event was Craig Scott, founder and developer of iThoughts (http://www.ithoughts.co.uk), which develops mindmapping apps for the iPhone and "iPad" (see below).
I have to say that in this speech the sound quality is pretty bad, so I couldn't hear everything Craig had to say. I captured as much as I could.
Touchy Feely Mindmapping
His presentation started off with congratulations from Liam Hughes for having the oddest presentation title: "Touchy Feely Mindmapping." But the title makes perfect sense once you understand what he's getting at.
Craig's overall topic is how different it is to program for iPads versus laptops. (He uses "iPads" as an inclusive term for that kind of platform, whether Apple or Android. His purpose being, I imagine, to educate the mind mapping company representatives in the room about what mobile mind mapping apps need to look and behave like.
He breaks down the differences into four main categories: Physical, Demographic,Expectations, and Business Model.
- Physical: Craig noted some qualities that pertain to the physical nature of iPads: People tend to use them more on the go, which helps to create more of an emotional relationship between human and machine. They're always with you--like a friend. So the applications need to seem... friendly.
But the big physical differentiator is touch, and Craig made some interesting points on this front. Touching the screen reinforces the emotional connection, causing iPad apps to be more natural, intuitive--and immersive (which, at present, doesn't seem to be a word. Oh well...)
The interesting part of this, I thought, was how Craig described that since we are using our fingers, things have to be a lot simpler on the screen. There can't be so many choice or features, because they would be so small that our fingers would cover up our choices.
So on the one hand, making it touch based means that the user gets far fewer options (a mouse allowing you to navigate to very small icons). But the end result is that the interface is cleaner, less scary for people who can be easily overwhelmed by too many choices.
And the result of that is that iPad apps are simpler--which is pretty much a good thing.
- Demographics: Craig notes that iPads are used by lots of different kinds of people--from geeks to grandmothers (my words). This means that apps have to be approachable--and have a certain elegance to them. This is reinforced by the business model behind iPad app development, which I'll touch on in a second.
- Expectations: Since people do tend to have a more personal, emotional connection to iPads, the applications themselves need to reflect that by being what Craig called "delightful, simple, and beautiful." People also expect these apps to be "cheap or free." Sounds like a great market!
- Business Model: Craig said that the dominant business model for iPad apps is low margin, high value. That means you have to sell lots of apps. Which takes us back to #2: Demographics. With all these different kinds of people using them, the apps need to have general appeal, general ease of use, etc.
He also noted (I think though, as I said, it was hard to hear) that apps are usually sold through an app store. He wondered aloud how the bigger mindmapping software companies would deal with having their apps sold through an app store...
The Perfect/Killer Mind Mapping App for the iPad
Finally, Craig offered what he thought would have to be some of the central attributes of the perfect mind mapping app:
- The app must be distraction free: It must provide a clear, effortless window that gets users into using the app, not being aware of it.
- The app must be immersive, touch-driven, something that lets you dive in and get focused on what you're doing.
- And it must be easy to pick up and use, just like the iPad itself: Something that you can pop open on one of the iPad devices that you have around your house... in the kitchen, the den, the TV room--not just in the office.
So... interesting ideas about what mind mapping companies need to do to stay relevant in this ever-more-mobile world of smaller devices. We used to love the idea of flashing a map up on a wall so we had lots of room to think and move.
Doing this kind of thinking on an iPad screen--not to mention an iPhone screen--will certainly test the skills of mind mapping software developers worldwide, which is a good thing!