Category Archives: mobile_learning

Mobile Monday: Tapworthy by Josh Clark – Chapter 1

Cover image of the book Tapworthy by Josh Clark
Tapworthy by Josh Clark

Josh Clark, the author of “Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps“, and the owner of

I read the Introduction and Chapter 1 this past week, and my summary statement is: Design your iPhone app for the user. Design an elegant iPhone app based on who the users is and how the user will actually use your app.

Josh is up front with the fact, as we all know, that there are a “gazillion” iPhone apps in the app store. What will make your app, and my app, stand out is an elegant, user-focused design. Now, that may sound like a given, but not all app developers create truly elegant designs. I’ve had my iPad 1 since May 2010, and I’ve downloaded and used many apps. The first week of January, I got my iPhone 4S. I believe I have some experience in recognizing really great app design.

So, as I read these two sections of his book one app kept coming up in my mind, an app that frustrates the heck out of me, but it’s an app that gets rave reviews in the App Store.

The app is “Grocery Gadget – Shopping List”. If you have this app and love it, then feel free to skip down a bit. For me, Grocery Gadget is way too complicated. I had to spend too much time learning how to use it, trying to figure it out. And, while I entered items into my grocery list, I got errors and it wasn’t easy for me to resolve those errors. I felt like Grocery Gadget was making me feel bad about myself.

The app I prefer to use is “List Pro”,  an app that (sadly) syncs to Windows devices only (at the time I write this). I enjoy this app for my grocery lists because I could jump right in and begin to use it. I didn’t spend an hour trying to figure out how to make the app work. (Note: I’m still looking for my ideal grocery list app that syncs to Apple devices, so I can send my DH shopping when I can’t go.)

And, that’s the essence of Tapworthy’s Introduction section and Chapter 1:

  • There are a “gazillion” apps in the App Store
  • Users download tons of apps but only use a few
  • Make the design of your app a very elegant and user-focused design so that they use your app and only your app

In designing learning activities (ILT or e-learning), my heart is with the learners, first, as well as supporting the business’s goals. Tapworthy places a very strong emphasis on a “humane” UX design, and I can’t wait to dive and learn the specifics.

For mlearning, we’ll need to design in a way that our users/learners can jump into the app quickly, find what they need as quickly, and then jump out of the app and continue their work.

At The e-Learning Guild’s mLearnCon conference in June of 2010, I saw a demonstration of a tablet app for employees at a big-box gardening center. When a customer would approach the employee to ask a question about a plant, or types of soil, the employee could quickly find the answer in the app’s “dictionary”, and then also find the aisle number and a list of related items the employee could cross sell to the customer.

Our mantra for creating mlearning apps: “Jump in, find what you need, and jump out to do your job.”

And, that’s true not just for product information used by field sales associates going to a call with a prospect, or by big-box store employees. It’s also true for leadership or employee relations reference content we may have for managers in multi-story office buildings.

Here are a few quotes from Josh in the Introduction and Chapter 1 that jumped out at me:

  • “Great apps seem effortless.”
  • “Go figure, but people use mobile apps when they’re mobile.”
  • “That means that people are manhandling your app with one paw, with just one eye on the screen, paying only partial attention to your carefully crafted interface.”
  • “The best apps fold neatly into the fabric of a busy schedule.”

And, more gems. The point is that the iPhone app must be elegant, intuitive, and easy for the learner to use on the job. And, that does mean the mlearning instructional designer (me) needs to sweat every detail and work hard, many hours, to create a great mlearning experience.

Tapworthy includes stories from app designers at several large companies. And, the first story by Josh Williams of Gowalla included something simple we all can do, what I call the paper napkin design process.

Williams literally sketched out the app design in a small notebook with pages a little larger than the iPhone. And, that’s what you and I can do. Right now. Take out your iPhone and draw its outline on a piece of paper. Scan it to your computer and print out multiple copies. Forget doing this digitally as your computer’s mouse can’t replace your fingers for designing gestures.

I’m really looking forward to Chapter 2, where Josh begins to dive into the design details, and the nitty gritty. I want to be the best mlearning instructional designer I can be, and I want you to have confidence in me if you ask me to design your mlearning app.

While I do appreciate you reading my series of blog posts on Tapworthy, please think about getting Josh Clark’s book. I get nothing from him except great design advice while I read, and the Tapworthy URL does go to my Amazon affiliate site (thank you for your purchase).

I do think this is a book that you can add to your library. Add it to your Wish List and tell your friends and family to buy it for you.

What do you think? Feel free to leave a Comment below, or send me a tweet:


Until I get the plugin set up:

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Mobile Monday: Tapworthy by Josh Clark – Introduction

Cover image of the book Tapworthy by Josh Clark
Tapworthy by Josh Clark

Today is the first of many weekly installments that I’ll publish on Mondays. I am beginning a “Mobile Monday” series on my blog to document my growth as an instructional designer for mobile learning.

I first heard about Josh Clark, the author of “Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps“, and the owner of, through a free webinar sponsored by O’Reilly Media about a year ago. I chose to begin with iOS apps because I’ve had an iPad (Gen 1) since May 2010. And, wow, Josh’s webinar truly impressed me. Typically, webinars for book authors can be just a “buy my book” type of presentation. Not with Josh. He shared some best practices with us that we could apply “out of the box”. I felt like this was someone I wanted to support with my book-buying dollars. I also wanted to learn from him because I could tell he knew what he was talking about. I’m kind of on the same wave-length as him in terms of UX (user interface) design.

I’m beginning with iOS because that’s what I know best. However, I plan to design for mobile devices across all platforms, even for Web apps.

If you are a risk taker, feel free to add me to your mobile learning projects, and allow me to learn as I go!

Otherwise, I do have a few ideas in my head on some future mobile learning apps.

Back to Tapworthy, here’s the Table of Contents that I’ll blog about every Mobile Monday, so please come back here and visit!


  • Introduction
    • Designing apps for delight and usability
  • Touch and Go
    • How we use iPhone apps
  • Is it Tapworthy?
    • Crafting your apps mission
  • Tiny Touchscreen
    • Designing for size and touch
  • Get Organized
    • Structuring your app the Apple way
  • The Standard Controls
    • Using the built-in interface elements
  • Stand Out
    • Creating a unique visual identity
  • First Impressions
    • Introducing your app
  • Swipe! Pinch! Flick!
    • Working with gestures
  • Know the Landscape
    • The spin on screen rotation
  • Polite Conversation
    • Alerts, interruptions, and updates
  • Howdy, Neighbor
    • Playing nice with other apps

(Note: The link to the Tapworthy book goes to my affiliate store. Thank you in advance for your purchase!)


Mobile Monday: iPad iOS 5 User Guide

141 Pages??

On New Year’s Eve 2011, I had lots of free time, so I finally upgraded to iOS 5. It was a seamless and easy process for me while we watched a rerun of Jurassic Park #2. The entire process lasted about 45 minutes and was 99% perfect.

On January 1, 2012, while nursing a very sore throat, I downloaded the iPad User Guide for iOS 5. When it opened in iBooks, “1 of 141 pages” flashed across my eyes! (Well, maybe “flashed” isn’t the best word to use re: Apple devices!)

“What??” I said to myself.

In the deep, dark past, I worked as a technical writer, so I love and appreciate well-written manuals. But, for an intuitive device like the iPad, 141 pages seemed excessive to me at first glance. So, here’s my tour.

This Guide Is Great for Beginners.

I’ve had an iPad since early May 2010 (Gen 1), so many of the sections covered features I use frequently. For someone brand new to the iPad, these 141 pages will get them up to speed easily and quickly. For someone similar to me, the Guide quickly brings readers up to speed on iOS 5.

This Guide Introduced Me to iCloud.

This guide provides a good overview of I wanted, and needed, to know about iOS 5, iTunes, and iCloud. The Apple site and some forums will fill in the “dirty details” to answer some questions I still have. The Guide created more questions in my mind than provided answers.

What Else?

I also learned some fun things that were new to me, such as:

  • Features of the iPad 2 (I plan to buy the iPad 3)
  • Split keyboard (using it now as I type this phrase; not sure I like it)
  • Reader (feature in Safari I will use)
  • Web clips (Safari feature I’ll rarely use)

And many other features too numerous to mention in this post. Let’s just say I really love my iPad and many new iOS 5 features, such as Notifications. I’m still not sure about Reminders. My jury is still out on that one, but I do plan to give if a fair trial.


So, I guess I jumped to (negative) conclusions regarding the User Guide for a fairly intuitive, touch-screen device that even three-year-olds can use out of the box. Those 141 pages are helpful to iPad users of all levels. I stand corrected. And, I love the layout of the iPad User Guide.

But, I’m biased, as I came very close to having worked at Apple as a Technical Writer. 🙂

Mobile Monday is my new, “regular”, blog post in 2012. Mobile Monday will chronicle my adventures in mobile learning design and development as we all progress through the year.


Review: mLearning Studio by Rapid Intake

Rapid Intake has come out with a rapid development tool for creating mobile learning that is SCORM compliant, and the HTML5 compatible courseware output will run on both Apple iOS and Android OS mobile devices (no version for BlackBerry yet).

I Test Drove the Demo

With my iPad in hand, I decided to take their demo for a spin. As an attendee at The e-Learning Guild’s mLearnCon in June 2010 (San Diego, CA), I sat in on a few sessions on HTML5 and “HTML5 vs. Adobe Flash”. The excitement buzzed around the fact that, yes, HTML5 is an infant, but it is quickly going to learn to crawl, walk, run, and then compete in the Olympics of mobile learning development. Some pretty big names with huge wallets are funding the HTML5 Working Group, and those big names are investing heavily in the future success of HTML5.

Before you read my review, please know that although I confess that I am a MacGrrrl and a bit of an Apple FanGrrrl, I can do basic interactions in native Adobe Flash. I am an OS agnostic, and I might end up getting an HTC Droid smartphone instead of the Verizon iPhone… maybe.

For mobile devices, I do prefer tablets over smartphones due to the larger screen size. However, some learners, such as field technicians and sales representatives, will use iPhones or Android smartphones over tablets because the device fits easily in their hands (pockets and purses).

That said, I was happy to see the invitation on Twitter to review an m-learning development tool that uses HTML5 to output to any mobile OS device, especially for tablets!

Caveat: This is Rapid Intake’s early, early release, and I’m sure their development team has a ton of upgrades already on a long list. However, I’m going to provide an honest assessment of what I saw tonight on my iPad.

My first screen grab with comment:

Sample Content Screen | Intro - Rapid Intake
Nice interface for the iPad. Menu on the left. Gesture sensitive content screen on the right (Landscape, my preference). But, the Swipe gesture wasn’t consistent. I ended up using the Next arrow in the lower right corner.

I did feel disappointment that the Swipe gesture didn’t always swipe. User error? I don’t think so, I’ve had my iPad since early May 2010, and I’ve got Gestures down.

Dirty iPad screen? Umm… maybe. I think the mLearning Studio App just needs to get a few bugs out.

My second screen shot:

#2 screen shot of Rapid Intake
At first, I felt disappointed. After using Articulate Studio (and PPT 2007) and Adobe Captivate to develop elearning, this mLearning Studio screen made me think of the early days of ToolBook Instructor and linear e-learning. I really, really hope Rapid Intake is working on some more interactive and engaging templates.

I caught myself and halted my critical gene. As a first-generation HTML5 rapid e-learning development tool, sure, the initial templates will be basic. Heck Rapid Intake is having to work with what HTML5 can do… today, February 2011. Sure, this screen reminded me of some ToolBook Instructor courses I developed some years ago: Text on the Left, Image on the Right. Click… Next! But, I set that aside and thought about what this new App is doing… on my iPad. I think it’s pretty darn cool… for a start. However, honestly, with Lectora as a competitor in the HTML5 mobile learning market with Lectora Inspire, and Adobe making HTML5 tools, Rapid Intake will have some pretty big shoes to fill in terms of engaging and interactive course templates. (We who are Articulate FanGrrrls and FanGuyzzz are waiting PATIENTLY for our next upgrade for an iPad-compatible tool…hint, hint. However, today, @GetAdam tweeted the need for a Web App tester…. please, please, hoping, hoping!)

My third screen shot:

#3 screen shot of Rapid Intake
Again, a static template, but this time the image is on the left and the content is on the right. The WARNING message at the bottom is not interactive; it’s static content.

From this screen, I see some variation in the mLearning Studio template. I’d like to know if the Warning message at the bottom is an image file in its entirety (exclamation mark plus text), or is it an area in the template where I can insert and image file and enter content into a text field. It would be fun to see behind the screen. After viewing the demo, I did add my name to Rapid Intake’s email list. (And, to make things clear to the FTC, I have no business nor personal relationships with anyone at Rapid Intake, and I receive no benefits from them, nor do I expect to.)

My fourth screen shot:

#4 screen shot of Rapid Intake
For the “8 Steps to Awesome Service”, this is Step #1 – Answer the Phone.

Again, this screen in their demo is quite plain and linear. What I’d like to see is a template that will allow me to insert an iOS-compatible video, for example. And, mLearning Studio does have a video template page. If I were using this template page, I’d like to insert an image file or two to build visual scenarios. Or, I’d use the Quiz template pages to challenge the learners on the 8 Steps instead of a text dump. But, that’s an instructional design decision and not a comment on the HTML5 functions of mLearning Studio.

My fifth screen grab (Quiz screen):

#5 screen shot of Rapid Intake
This is a basic T/F quiz template screen. mLearning Studio also offers a multiple choice template.

The simple demo provided samples of one T/F question and two M/Cs (multiple choice). Will mLearning Studio also have templates for M/R or multiple response questions? Can I add images or iOS-compatible video to this page?

It will be interesting to see what other quiz templates are available. And, again, I’m sure the mLearning Studio team has a long list of enhancements in mind.

My sixth you-know-what:

#6 screen shot of Rapid Intake
The feedback template page is adecuate, but I’d like to learn more about what I can do with it other than enter text.

I liked seeing the feedback box appear as an overlap in Landscape mode on my iPad (my only testing environment for this review).

From a design and development viewpoint, can I change the color from gray to another color? Can I import image files or a video file to reinforce the intrinsic feedback?

I do understand that we’re working with HTML5 today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring in terms of new development options… especially for the iPad specifically.

My seventh screen shot:

#7 screen shot of Rapid Intake
Nice Quiz Results page. And, it’s nice to think of how happy the SCORM-compliant LMS will be. Not too mention the customer service managers. 😉

When I saw this page, I began to think of the possibilities of LMS reporting and tracking from mobile devices! When I felt my excitement rise inside of me, I realized I need to go outside and get a life… enjoy smelling flowers and petting puppy dogs in the park.

Seriously, as an attendee of a mobile learning conference in 2010, I am so excited about mobile learning, I just can’t tell ya!

My final screen grab:

mLearning Studio | Product Page - Rapid Intake
I found it funny that on my iPad, I couldn’t view the demo vid of mLearning Studio because it’s a Flash video (see gray text on the right side). They could have used Articulate’s Screenr to create an HTML5-compatible MP4 vid file. 🙂

So, I’m cheering on Rapid Intake and it’s mLearning Studio HTML5-compatible development tool. This was a nice first look, and there’s lots of room for wonderful growth.

(As an independent consultant, I need various tools in my tool box. So, I cheer on just about any tool maker because my clients typically select and use only one or two tools. What they use, I use.)

Thank you, Rapid Intake, for your first steps with an HTML5-compatible rapid mlearning tool (for the iPad!) for mobile devices. As a consultant, I do look forward to your future success.

(And, as a disclaimer as a consultant, I am happy to review anyone’s new tools, without remuneration to keep the FTC happy, of course.)


mLearnCon 2010: Index of My Blog Posts

My Blog Posts about mLearnCon 2010

On Twitter: @jenisecook

June 14-17, 2010, in gorgeous San Diego, California, The eLearning Guild hosted and facilitated their first annual conference on mobile learning, or mLearnCon. I registered to attend several seminars, plus a full-day workshop on Monday, “Think Different: Getting Your Mind Around mLearning Design”, facilitated by Dr. Clark Quinn, @Quinnovator on Twitter.

The week was filled with exciting seminars. If you attend mLearnCon in 2011, I strongly suggest you go with several colleagues, schedule seminars in advance, and then share notes. I made some hard choices that week on which seminars to attend…there were many good ones available.

Everyone felt that we are at the point of seeing mlearning take off exponentially in the next few months and years, and yet, there are many issues to discuss and resolve…particularly how to track and report mlearning in the various Learning Management Systems (LMSs), and data security issues.

For your enjoyment, here’s a list of my mLearnCon 2010 posts:

1) Bill Brandon’s Recap: First Annual mLearnCon

On Twitter: @billbrandon

2) B.J. Schone: 20 mLearning Tools in 60 Minutes

On Twitter: @bjschone

3) Joe Welinske: iPad Panel – iPad App Resources

4) Featured Panel Discussion on the Apple iPad

5) Patti Shank: Your First mLearning Initiatives

6) Tomi Ahonen: Keynote – Mobile in Learning

On Twitter: @tomiahonen

7) Qualcomm’s Mobile Learning Journey

8] Richard Clark: Surviving without Flash

On Twitter: @rdclark

9) Mimi Ito: Keynote – What the User Wants in mLearning

On a Personal Note…

On Monday afternoon, while in Dr. Clark Quinn’s workshop, my husband texted me some very sad news. His mom died that day. My mother-in-law Donna had suffered a long, hard battle against lung cancer, won the battle, but had lost to COPD. We knew we’d have her for this year only, but her death came sooner than we expected and it was a shock.

I notified members of The Guild, drove home (we lived near San Diego at that time), and was able to return to the conference on Tuesday and for the rest of the week at my husband’s urging Monday evening. His mom had made advanced preparations and arrangements, so we had no tasks to attend to that week.

The eLearning Guild staff not only host amazing conferences, they also, during very hectic conference days, take time to be human. I cannot express enough thanks to those staff members who reached out to me for a few minutes with their kindness and compassion. I specifically want to call out Brent Schlenker, whose concern and thoughtful words meant more to me than I can ever express.

Thank you, eLearning Guild.

The American Cancer Society helped Donna through some very hard times. If you can, help me pay it forward through donations of either time or finances. Thank you.