Have you ever noticed how some gadgets are so easy to use that you can’t figure them out?
Koi Pond HD is a 99-cent app that turns your iPad screen into a fish pond, where every tap makes a splash or scares fish. Aimed at ages 3 and up, it’s a great first app for anyone. So I fired it up on my iPad, and handed the tablet to my 84-year-old father-in-law for what I hoped would be his first, no-fail iPad experience.
“Now don’t spill this,” I joked, pretending to balance the virtual puddle as I passed it to him.
“I broke it,” he said a few seconds later. “How on earth could you break it?” I thought. It turns out his trouser leg had brushed against the sleep/wake button, causing the pond to disappear.
I took the iPad back for a different approach. This time, I cut up a regular white mailing label and used it to mark the important controls. I returned the iPad to him, and gave him a 15-second tutorial. The curriculum consisted of where to find the home button, which I had labeled “Change Apps,” the sleep button, which I had labeled “On/Off,” and the confusing volume controls. My goal was to give him some iPad training wheels.
I had used this technique in the past with preschoolers, and, much to my delight, it also worked for my father-in-law. He soon stumbled into my classical music playlist, and marveled at the clarity of the iPad’s internal speakers. “I love this thing!” he proclaimed, to the sounds of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
If you want to set up training wheels, here are some tips on how to do so.
STEP 1. Label the buttons.
STEP 2. Use Spotlight search. If you have more than a dozen apps on your iPad, you’ve undoubtedly noticed how hard it is to find things. But you can program your Home button so that a double click goes right to search, just as it would with Google. (You can also swipe to do the same thing.) Here’s how: Go to Settings, General, and look for the “Double-Click the Home Button” option. Select Search. You can also set the level of detail of the search, just in case you don’t want things like your contact list to be included in the search results. Now, a quick double tap lets you find apps by typing short sections of the title.