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

Does usability testing hold the answers?

So does usability testing hold the answer? Reading the reports one could feel that the answer is no. A WAP and Internet content study carried out by a professional usability group in 1999 and reported at the 9th International WWW Conference in May 2000 noted the need for better support for navigation and scrolling but concluded, "Our experience shows that it is possible to make Web services that adapt to different terminals, both desktop and mobile, without diminishing the site's visual appeal". (see weblink 4)

The ambiguity inherent in some of the reports, that on the one hand find major problems with the services on offer and on the other foresee a bright future for WAP, may be related to the fact that the authors carry out both usability studies and the design of WAP services.

A Danish group say on one page: "With a new generation of smart cell phones and handheld devices you will have unlimited access to the Internet's endless array of information, communication, commerce and entertainment", whilst their manager says on another page, covering a study of WAP portals: "WAP is not the Internet on the mobile phone. It takes courage and innovation to build unique mobile applications with the limitations that exists in the WAP today."(see weblink 5)

An Irish group say somewhat inconsistently "… it would be a mistake to judge WAP based on what experts in the field expect it to achieve". (see weblink 6)

The problem lies in what usability experts are continually complaining of, a tendency to carry out usability after the event, rather than involving users from the start of the design process. Nielsen rightly points out that the telephone is designed to fit between the human ear and the human mouth, and that such a device is always going to have difficulties if it must double up as a video screen. He goes on to predict that the solution lies in a handheld screen oriented device with a separate headset that may be interconnected by another wireless technology Bluetooth. Neilsen believes that the problems will be solved only when we have moved from phone type devices to palm type devices, and indeed thinks phones should go altogether. (see weblink 7)

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