Saturday, May 03, 2008

Confusion rules in user experience of mobile web

Antidotal problems with mobile web UX ...

"The user experience of the mobile web is still a mess, as far as I can see it.

Italy, the country, where I live, is quite advanced in terms of mobile penetration and mobile services. But when it comes to going online on a mobile, confusion rules.

I just upgraded my phone and now have a model that allows everything and more, if only the operators would give a helping hand. They don’t.

This morning I went to my favourite Vodafone shop, where the staff is helpful, attentive to people’s needs, and very knowledgeable about mobile devices. It is always a delight going there. But they cannot do anything about the way rates and tariffs are set.

A true flat rate does not exist in Italy. Not with Vodafone, not with any of the other operators. They offer you something where you can go to the internet at a “flat rate”, as long as you do it via the operator’s portal. And that’s where the confusion starts.

The portal does include Google, so in theory you can access all the web within this flat rate? They confirm. Can you also put in another URL? Yes, you can (but they don’t seem entirely sure). The important thing they say is that you access via the operator’s wap address. So I can also use another browser (like Opera Mini) through that wap address? Well, no. What about applications installed by the manufacturer, such as maps or internet radio that all go via the same wap address? Probably not either. Definite no-no’s are IM, Skype, GPS-based mapping, widgets, Yahoo Go!, etc.

I can of course access all these services, I was told, and they will work, but I would have to pay a lot of data charges.

I got more and more confused. And so did they, when I started prodding. They had to admit that they didn’t know for sure either where the flat rate stopped and the data charges started. In the end, they recommended trying.

When I replied incredulously that this was unfair — I didn’t want to experiment with my money because the company was not able to be clear about pricing — they told me to come in at a quiet moment, and they would check things with a company SIM.

The staff was nice, it’s not their fault, but the lack of transparency about mobile pricing is such that the average user doesn’t want to take any risk and just doesn’t use anything at all which is not absolutely guaranteed within its flat rate.

Flat rates are what the mobile internet needs in order to provide a good, trusted and reliable user experience. I hope change is going to come very soon.

To be continued, for sure."    (Continued via Putting people first, Seeds of Growth)    [Usability Resources]

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