Researcher terms mobile usability an "oxymoron"

San Francisco (CA) – A recently published report has concluded that browsing the web on mobile devices is “neither easy nor pleasant.”

“The phrase ‘mobile usability’ is pretty much an oxymoron,” explained usability expert Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman Group. “Observing users suffer during our user sessions reminded us of the very first usability studies we did with traditional websites in 1994. It was that bad.”

According to Nielsen, NN/g researchers found that the average success rate for users (in the US and UK) completing tasks on the mobile Internet was 59 percent compared to an average success rate of 80 percent for websites accessed on a regular PC.

Researchers also identified four primary obstacles that mobile users faced:

  • Small screens – All interactions became harder to do when users identified fewer options at any given time.
  • Awkward input – Text entry was particularly slow and error prone – even on phones with mini-keyboards. In addition, Operating GUI widgets without a mouse was difficult.
  • Download delays – Moving to the next screen took “forever,” often longer than it would on a dial-up connection.
  • Mis-designed websites – Sites are optimized for usability under desktop conditions, meaning they don’t follow guidelines for mobile access and create additional obstacles for mobile users.

“The first two problems are inherent to mobile devices, and as for connectivity, it’s going to take many years before mobile connections are as fast as even a modest cable modem,” noted NN/g user experience specialist Raluca Budiu. “The key opportunity for improving the mobile user experience lies in websites being designed specifically for better mobile usability.”