Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Friday, March 04, 2005

Alternative "screen" metaphors...idea #23/100...

In my book "Next Generation Wireless Applications" (pp 48-51), I discuss fully how WAP and Web are different, despite being based on similar models. Indeed, WAP is ostensibly "Web-lite", if I can use such a phrase. With WAP 2.0 and XHTML-MP, that is not an exaggeration.

If we fail to grasp the essential differences between a WAP experience and a Web experience, we shall end up with poor usability, as we mostly have.

For example, URLs are a fantastic idea and they work well. But, in mobileland, they suck! Even the operators - those selling us this stuff - say so. As I have argued for some time, until we get usable keypads on all phones (like Fastap), or regardless of text entry method, why can't we use numbers and "dial" sites?

Reading pages is also quite different. The ability to skim read, quickly scan for links and other aspects of looking at pages on PCs are all absent from the mobile experience. Switching pages from one window (or tab) to another also makes life easier. Again, absent from mobileland...

So, why can't we have multiple page views on a mobile device?

It would seem relatively straightforward to allow multiple sessions and provide a means to switch between sessions. It wouldn't require much more than a little extra screen buffer (memory) to store the multiple views and allow rapid switching between them.

I would think that four screens would be useful along with a dedicated button for swapping. What's more, I would go as far as saying that such a feature would probably increase mobile surfing, which is good for operators.

Whilst implementing such a feature, I would also like a proper page memory on my mobile device - not just a favourites option. If I find something of interest, I would like to be able to store the page for instant retrieval. It would be nice to think that in a 3G world, we can just store links and reload pages. Well, dream on....

There's NO substitute for rapid response and ease of information retrieval. Anyone who doesn't understand the importance of device responsiveness has not understood usability in the mobile context.

[Note: there is a common fallacy that 3G automatically means a much faster WAP experience. This is not so. Delays occur in contacting websites, loading pages, processing the XHTML/WAP code, loading images etc. For small pages, such delays can easily account for a large proportion of the overall delay, not the actual transmission time. Thus 3G does not mean ultra-fast WAP. It does (or should) mean fast downloads.]

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