It’s Not Me, It’s You – Why Are So Many Tablet Experiences So Awful?

I tweeted last week that I’m genuinely surprised at how poor of a tablet experience many sites still have. I’m not talking small sites either, which would be more understandable. No, I’m talking major web sites where the experience of viewing their site or God forbid trying to make a purchase on their site is anywhere from annoying to painful. I know we like to harp in paid search a lot about how tablets are no PCs when it comes to conversions, but maybe part of that is because people don’t bother trying to complete an action or transaction on a tablet because the experience is so poor?

What are some of the main issues for tablet visitors?

  1. Navigation that does not function properly
  2. Apps that do not have the same functionality as the phone version
  3. Pop-up windows that you cannot close
  4. Ads that launch or redirect without the ad being touched
  5. Banner ads that load on a delay that shift all content down so you don’t click where you think you just clicked
  6. Pages not responding to touches
  7. Login screens that do not function properly
  8. Non-responsive designs

I’m sure other tablet users have other complaints, but these are the ones that come to mind for me – and they are all maddening. I use my tablet a lot. I have a small child and sometimes the only times I have to look at things that are not work related are when she is chilling for 20 minutes watching Curious George (that is when she is not watching it on my tablet!). I try to do all kinds of things on my tablet, anything from read emails to scrolling through Twitter or Facebook to online shopping to reading web site content from sites I enjoy personally. For each of these actions, I am almost always frustrated in one way or another when I’m on my tablet versus another device. It seems crazy to me that my experience on my phone, which has a screen one-third the size of my tablet, is superior to the tablet. That is madness people!

Apps That Lag Behind The Phone Versions

I called out Twitter recently for their iPad app functionality. I am running the most recent version of the app and it lacks the now basic function available on desktop or phone of quoting a tweet while having the ability to post your own full length tweet as part of the post. Yup, try to quote a tweet from the iPad app and you get the tweet you’re quoting still literally in quotation marks. This is ridiculous. Adding the ability to quote a complete tweet and add one’s own commentary to it was a great improvement to the functionality of Twitter. It needs to be part of the iPad or tablet experience.

Functionality Problems

This, I think, is an issue of not enough testing. What works on a desktop in this arena does not work on a tablet (or a phone for that matter). Most sites are designed desktop first, even in today’s increasing non-desktop viewing world. This really isn’t that surprising. Designing for mobile first is hard and it is often really at odds with what we have been conditioned to like and want in a desktop site. Clients say they want to put the mobile experience first (and one would hope this extends to tablets) but in practice, they are often unwilling to make design choices that are necessary to have excellent user experiences on non-desktop devices. These choices do make the desktop version of the site less sexy, I will agree with that. But, until the technology catches up and is able to generate truly unique site page versions on the fly for each device, this is what we’ve got. Businesses need to do better at accepting the limitations and making decisions that work the best across all devices.

I cannot for the life of me log in to Angie’s List from my iPad. The login screen simply does not work on a touch screen. Several of the industry sites I like to read have pop-ups that don’t want to close – like Search Engine Land or Marketing Land, to name a couple. It’s spotty as to whether I can actually get to the article I want to read (and possibly share!).

Poor Shopping Experiences

Bloom Reach shared data about the expected percentage of back to school purchases to be completed on tablets this year – that figure was a whopping 35%. If that is true, many retail sites have a long way to go to have their tablet experience equal that of their desktop sites. The Kohls web site is mostly functional on a tablet, but it has banner ads that load within the pages that are on a slight delay. What does that mean to the visitor? I navigate to the page I want and just as I am about to click on the item I’m interested in possibly buying, the entire screen shifts down and instead of clicking on the item I want, I click the ad, which takes me off the site. Maddening, to say the least. This is just one example of the type of experience I have regularly on sites that sell things. Maybe more people would buy things from their tablets if trying to do so didn’t make them want to hurl their tablet across the room? Just something to consider heading into the big retail season…

These are just a few of the things that drive me nuts, that are very likely also driving your customers or potential customers mad if your site has any of the above described aspects to the tablet experience. Consuming content and wanting to get things done on non-desktop screens will only continue to rise as an expectation of consumers. Get ahead of the curve now, while so many tablet experiences are still so awful. You just might gain some very happy customers who will gladly stick with you if the experience is pleasurable on their tablets!

How about you? What drives you nuts when you’re looking a sites on tablets? Sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter to chat about it (@NeptuneMoon).


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  1. […] It’s Not Me, It’s You – Why Are So Many Tablet Experiences So Awful?: It’s no surprise that tablet usage is increasing, but what about functionality? Read the article to find out the main issues for tablet users and see how you can improve user experience on a tablet. […]

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