Elpub buttonEl.pub Analytic Issue Number 4

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El.pub Analytic No. 4 "Usability, WAP, wireless and DVD"

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Contents: The problem with WAP is... | Does usability testing hold the answers? | The mobile network - revising the promises | Mobile information services can succeed | Wireless solutions are being adopted | Powerful mobile computing devices hold the key | WAP viability hindered by lack of usability

The problem with WAP is...

Usability testing, user centred design and usability centres are viewed with mixed feelings by most people in the multimedia community. Everyone admits that they should be doing usability testing (and requirements analysis, task analysis, validation, etc.) whether they are creating commercial products or testing concepts. However, when it comes to it, many people feel that this is one of the expendable aspects of development that can be sacrificed, to cut time-to-market.

However, the problems with the WAP market, which is generally acknowledged to have failed to live up to expectations, show that ignoring usability is a dangerous strategy. Although WAP began around 1998, devices only became available on a wide scale in 2000 and most reviews date from the second half of 2000. The market is currently described as "WAPathetic", because although there are lots of WAP enabled devices out there (26 million) people are not using them to access WAP services.

A number of recent studies, notably one by Jacob Nielsen's group have identified some of the problems (see: weblink 1). Amongst them are speed, quote: "It was slow and frustrating and I could find no relevant information after 25 minutes of trying", (see: weblink 2) entering text via the dial buttons, difficulty in reading the small screen, frustration with navigation. A report in the Washington Post quoted the head of Internet operations for Stockholm's big SEB bank as saying:

"We have provided online banking via WAP to our customers since early this year. The idea seemed perfect. Virtually all our customers use the Internet, and they all have mobile phones. But then they try this WAP, and it is so hard! You go down, down, down all these menus, and you wait, wait, wait each time. You're straining to read text on this tiny screen on the phone. Eventually, people just give up."(see weblink 3)

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