It is difficult to put a price tag on frustration and that is often the main reason people opt for 10 inch tablets then their 7 inch counterparts. Typing and interacting on a small display screen is often an exercise in patience with the small UI elements. Portability factor aside, many of the industry’s leading visionaries opt for large screen displays for a reason.
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen recently did some tests with the Amazon Kindle Fire and many industry experts take what he has to say quite seriously. Fortune Magazine rates him one of the 10 top minds in business, while CNN heralded him as “an eminent Web usability guru.” He had this to say about the first tablet offering from Amazon – “The most striking observation from testing the Fire is that everything is much too small on the screen, leading to frequent tap errors and accidental activation. You haven’t seen the fat-finger problem in its full glory until you’ve watched users struggle to touch things on the Fire. One poor guy spent several minutes trying to log in to Facebook, but was repeatedly foiled by accidentally touching the wrong field or button—on a page with only 2 text fields and 1 button.
He also believes that the overall internet experience suffers on the seven inch variant of tablet in general such as the Nook Tablet, Playbook, and Colby. The default browser and internet experience is rather lackluster, and developers will need to make specialized mobile versions of their website for an optimal small screen experience. You see some websites, such as Engadget, release applications that render their website to suit smartphones and small screen tablets, but unfortunately this is not the norm. Meanwhile, Apple’s iPad, the industry flag-bearer, has a great web experience because of its large screen display that is almost on par with small netbooks.
Neilson offers some feedback on how the overall web experience on 7 inch tablets had be streamlined in order to offer a better experience. Websites should acknowledge the user-agent code and automatically serve up the mobile version when accessed. For Kindle Fire users, major search engines like Bing, Google, and Baidu should prioritize links to mobile sites in the search engine result page. Currently search engines often shoot users in the foot by pointing to the full websites that do not render properly. If you have a Kindle Fire, you should change your browser preference to mobile view. (In the Silk browser, tap Menu button > Settings > (scroll to “Advanced” items) > Desktop or mobile view.)
One of the biggest proponents of large screen displays on tablets was none other then Steve Jobs. He famously said the UI would be too small, and that users would have the shave down their fingers to use it. He claimed Apple did a lot of testing before hand and determined the 9.7-inch iPad gave the best trade off between usability and design.
Recently Neilson wrote a 293 page encompassing 210 guidelines and 479 screenshots offered for tablet companies and web designers to push their content for small screens. If you are in the tablet and web-business and want to deliver a better experience it is well worth the read from an industry leader. You can read the full report HERE.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.