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How do I cater for tablet users?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012 | By Scott Robinson

I saw a news story recently that said that large numbers of Aussies will be using iPads for purchases/product research this Christmas.

 

Should my business’ website be doing anything specific to cater for the growing number of tablet users?

 

The single most important thing to remember about your website is that it’s a vehicle for communication. The results you receive are based upon how you drive it.

 

Like driving a car, you need to know the conditions and your destination. This is why data is so important. Having a tool to measure the effectiveness of your website, to guide you as to where your traffic is coming from and how your message is being received is vital.

 

These statistics will quickly let you know if you have a significant number of users accessing your website via mobile devices, whether that be iPads, iPhones or any other brand of tablet or smartphone.

 

Importantly, you need to ensure that you know what your message looks like on these devices. Most websites will tend to look pretty good on the iPad tablet. It has a high-resolution screen and is a reasonable size to work with.

 

What are important to test are functions such as your hierarchy and links. These rely on ‘touch points’.

 

Because users don’t have a mouse or pen, and are using their fingers, the touch points to activate these items are vital to your customers being able to navigate around your site.

 

In most cases, we find that clients simply need a small tweak to get the desired result on a tablet device. iPhones require a complete rework and it is very rare that a website will work all the way from a desktop to a smartphone without some modification.

 

The data is also useful in terms of an expected ROI (Return On Investment). Any investment you make in your site needs to be made based on you gaining something from that investment.

 

There is no point spending money on a fully tablet based website if only 2% of your traffic is coming from that source.

 

We usually encourage clients to make a shift in the 15% - 30% mark. If we find them at 30% we’re usually encouraging them to do it immediately. I don’t think any business can afford to be ignoring 30% of their customers.

 

One other important factor to be aware of, is that Flash doesn’t function on any iOS device. That is any product running the Apple operating system.

 

Flash has traditionally been used to develop animation on websites. In recent years it has fallen from favour and we have seen an increase in the use of HTML5, CSS3 and Java to replace what was traditionally built and executed in Flash.

 

So if your site is delivering important information through a Flash component then you will need to examine this aspect also.

 

eCommerce sites need to also be aware of how their systems function on these types of devices too. If customers aren’t able to purchase your products then you’re losing that sale to a site that can.

 

It’s really a matter of grabbing an iPad and seeing what your site looks like. If things don’t work, or the site doesn’t function properly, then seek the assistance of a developer who can fix that for you.

 

Oh, and don’t forget to test it in both portrait and landscape modes. Remember, customers use both!