When I first heard that TabToolKit from Agile Partners had won a design award I was really pleased. Apart from the fact that TabToolKit is a good app for the iPhone and iPad, the fact that they won an Apple design award is a big step forward not only for Agile Partners who make great music apps, but for the whole mobile music community.
It is so important because it makes a statement that mobile music creation and applications aren’t just toys any more, they are tools that can help musicians in a whole host of ways. It is also important because the music category of the app store isn’t massive when compared to games and some other areas. So this kind of recognition is really significant.
So, what was it that made TabToolKit win the award? The criteria for the award (technical excellence, innovation, superior technology adoption, high performance, outstanding design) align nicely with what Agile Partners consider to be important, especially outstanding design.
I’ve been in touch with Agile Partners and they answered they gave me some Q&A which gives you an insight into how they designed TabToolKit:
What was the key challenge to designing TabToolkit for iPad?
In many ways, the challenge was figuring out what should be different about TabToolkit for iPad (TabToolkit for iPhone launched last September). We knew it wasn’t simply a matter of making everything bigger. Users expect more than that from an iPad app because the device is more powerful and larger. In fact, the larger screen drives a “flatter” presentation of information that should be accounted for in your information architecture (e.g., you shouldn’t have deep drill downs like on an iPhone) . In short, we took the time to re-envision what TabToolkit should be, specifically for iPad.
What are you most pleased with about TabToolkit for iPad
We’re really pleased with the Page Layout view where users can see an entire page of music notation scroll smoothy across the screen. Since we render the music notation in real time, we were a bit concerned at first with performance, but we worked hard at it to optimize the user experience. Being able to view an entire page of music not only makes it easier for musicians to read, but a full page of crisp, sharp notes on the high resolution display is visually compelling. You can even jump to any point of a song by simply tapping or dragging the music notation on the screen!
What advice would you give people on designing for the iPad?
Because of the iPad form factor (i.e., size and aspect ratio), it can make sense for designers to approach it with a more classical page layout point of view. Considering things like proper use of negative space, layout balance and standard typographic rules can really help the overall design appeal of an iPad app.
Why did you develop a universal app?
TabToolkit is fairly new app, with the iPhone version having launched just last September. We didn’t want to alienate our “early adopter” customers who had just purchased the app. In fact, a lot of existing customers have thanked us in their app reviews for a universal app and not having to purchase again. We feel our approach has paid off since word-of-mouth marketing is our most effective method of promotion.
I think that it is great that TabToolKit won a design award, not just for them, but for mobile music as a whole. I hope that next year we continue to see mobile music apps showing up in these and other awards.