Three ways to improve woeful WAP experience

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Of 50 WAP sites tested on the needs of mobile users, none made the grade, because web content is being squashed on to a tiny screen, with notable lack of success.

The average site failed on more than half the criteria - proving that web experience doesn’t automatically lead to WAP success, and the lessons learned from years of website design don’t apply to mobile devices.

But before overhauling mobile Internet sites, firms must master the new competency of microdesign, which rests on three principles: obvious navigation, concise content, and automated integration with other channels.
• Users must be able to tap a site’s value immediately without learning a navigation scheme.
• Content must be optimized for small screens and only those who demand more depth should see it.
• Mobile offerings must synchronize with other channels, like the web and iDTV, invisibly and immediately.

Forrester analyst Carsten Schmidt believes that by failing to address the problems, firms risk brand erosion, decreased traffic in other channels, and lost revenues and customers. To accommodate small mobile displays - four to five short lines plus one header - navigation and content must be continuously interwoven, and access must be immediate and precise.

Increasingly, mobile Internet sites must work with other channels. WAP sites must be built on the same business rules and data as other electronic channels. Firms must offer web and iDTV sites that provide users with names and passwords, and apply preferences from other channels to mobile visitors on their first visit.

“The web challenged companies to offer richness and interactivity compared with print material, and mobile devices challenge firms to create smaller and simpler content available at any time,” Schmidt added. “Mobile sites must help users get something done quickly in as few pages as possible.”

While the mobile Internet won’t capture big direct revenues, it will have a huge indirect influence.

The WAP sites surveyed were balanced across 11 countries and 10 categories. Forrester relied on the Nokia 7110 phone for basic testing but also used the Ericsson R380 and the Siemens S35 to test browser compatibility. For each site category, Forrester identified three key tasks -- such as checking a stock price for financial sites or posting a bid for auctions.

Forrester Research is an independent Internet research firm, analyzing technology change and its impact on business, consumers, and society. Established in 1983, the company is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with research centers in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and London, UK.

Forrester Research

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