Have you thought about your iPad visitors lately?

Luke Wroblewski’s most recent Data Monday post compiled astounding iPad stats. In two years, Apple has sold 67 million iPads, and is by far the leading tablet device. So leading, in fact, that its closest sales competitor is itself—the number 2 tablet is an older iPad, currently on sale at a lower price.

With this in mind, I took a quick unscientific survey of a few of our client’s web analytics across higher education, non-profit, manufacturing and banking. This past month, 32% of mobile device visits were from the iPad.

With new iPad users coming online every day, and nearly 1/3 of our client’s mobile visits coming from the iPad, it’s a good time to think about how people use these devices, and how they differ from mobile smartphone experiences.

Standard websites work fairly well on iPads. On smartphones with touch interfaces, delivering a “desktop” site generally means the user has to pinch and zoom (or squint) to find information. Except for Flash multimedia and certain Javascript limitations, standard desktop websites fare relatively well on an iPad. Of course, there’s always room for improvement and additional device-level functionality, but the iPad is a great tool for users who are reading and casually browsing the web.

iPads are mostly used at home. Mobile phones are used everywhere, iPads tend to see the most use at home. You rarely see people bust out their iPad in the car or while standing on line. Instead, they curl up with the iPad on the couch or in bed. Because the iPad’s users are comparatively less on-the-go, the it’s context is different that of a smartphone.

iPads may be shared. An entire family might use a single iPad – Nielsen statistics show that 43% share their tablet device. Kids might play games or watch movies on it, and mom and dad might use it for watching Mad Men episodes and checking account balances on their credit cards. In contrast, phones are personal. Rarely do you hand off your phone to your partner to use—they have their own phone.

What does this mean for your website’s tablet experience?

  • You should be thinking seriously about how your website performs on tablets like the iPad. Is it functionally sound? Are there frustration points for your users like Flash interactivity, or nonworking dropdown menus? What do you need to improve?
  • Would a unique tablet experience make your users’ lives easier?
  • Are you redirecting tablet users to your smartphone-optimized mobile website? Context clues may suggest your users is at home, open to reading more than your truncated mobile site is offering.

Remember—iPad and tablet users are a fast-growing population. Today, iPads may make up 1/3 of your mobile device visits, but what will that number be a few months down the road? Now is the time to prepare.