What has changed is our understanding of the ways (specifically the where’s) in which people are using their tablets. We have all struggled with the issue of how should we classify a tablet – as a mobile device like a smartphone, as an analog for a laptop experience, or as its own type of device? Without addressing that specifically, what is clear is that tablets get a lot of use in the home. A recent Viacom study found that US tablet owners use their devices in the home about 74% of the time.
The “why” is easy – the tablet is a media consumption device. Sure you can work on a spreadsheet or a few slides if you have to, and it’s great for emails in the airport, but primarily it’s designed to let you take in the most content possible – games, movies, news, music, photos, videos, tweets and status updates.
What makes the tablet so fit for consumption? Many things, but one of them is the browser itself and the ease of using it. This is why “couch commerce” cannot be ignored. It’s not the most popular tablet activity, but last holiday season, Black Friday generated almost 6.5 million page views from iPads alone, according to a Compuware study. The same study found that most top online retailers had no iPad-optimized site experience.
So last year I encouraged three questions to determine your need for a tablet strategy:
- What does your site do or what products do you sell?
- Is there an audience?
- What is the current web experience like on a tablet device?
These are still a valid way to approach determining your need for a tablet strategy, but the answers have certainly changed a bit.
Clearly if you sell a media experience, tablet optimization is necessary. Period. Since we know couch commerce is here to stay and that the market is expected to continue growing rapidly, optimizing sites selling real goods also makes more sense than ever.
As for the audience, we know it’s there and can confidently assume it will continue to be. As before, let your site metrics be your guide, but if you haven’t looked at tablet use on your site lately, it’s time to do so. You may be surprised by the results.
And for your current web experience, if you haven’t evaluated it on an iPad or Android tablet, you need to. While experts may be able to recommend points of optimization that you don’t see right away, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a fancy analysis to be effective. Sit with an iPad and see what frustrates you. What could be tuned to make your site friendlier for media consumption (e.g. gesture controls on your photos)? Better yet – give an iPad to a couple friends who aren’t as familiar with your site and watch them. Let the couch be your usability lab.