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!)