Tuesday, January 31, 2012

User Experience on PCs, Tablets, Smart Phones Differs Vastly

Latency is getting to be a bigger deal for mobile user experience. Apps that load quickly on a PC take much longer to load on a smart phone or tablet, Yankee Group reports, using Keynote Systems data.

Also, according to Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe, typical users now carry as many as five different mobile devices. But each of those devices might be optimized in different ways, in terms of latency.

Load times among sites differ because in most cases, content owners are not customizing the content they deliver to the device, says Howe. The majority of the sites Keynote Systems monitored, including major online brands Craigslist and Apple, sent the same content to smart phones and tablets, for example.

Facebook, Bing, Kayak, MSN, Amazon and IMDB all sent significantly more objects and bytes to tablets than to smart phones. These sites detected the larger screens of tablets and sent them more information, says Howe.

The one company that behaves significantly differently is Google, which sent roughly 450 KBytes to smart phones while sending only about 200 KBytes to tablets.

Google chooses to add several location-based options such as “Restaurants” and “Coffee” to smart phone content but doesn’t serve up those features to tablet users, probably because many tablets don’t offer location services by default. As a result, smart phones receive more content from Google than tablets do.

Those findings are interesting for several reasons. Since different devices feature different screen sizes and input and output capabilities, get used in different ways, at different locations, at different times of day, customizing the experience makes sense.

But tailoring a user experience based on what device is used, when it used or where it is used is not so different from tailoring an experience based on what application a user wants to engage with. And that’s where legitimate concerns about unfair business advantage bump up against end user preferences.

When a user wants to watch a video, conduct a video call or play an interactive game, issues such as latency and consistency of bandwidth availability are important performance parameters.

The policy issue is whether users or service providers ought to be able to manage network experience to enhance end user experience. For such reasons, some think “best effort only” access is not optimal.

Some 21 percent of surveyed enterprise information workers are using one or more Apple products for work, Forrester Research says.

Almost half of enterprises (1000 employees or more) are issuing Macs to at least some employees and they plan a 52 percent increase in the number of Macs they issue in 2012.

Managers and executives are more than twice as likely to use Apple products, suggesting an adoption pattern where the ability to use the device is something of a “perquisite,” much as at one time the ability to use a BlackBerry was a perquisite for enterprise executives.

But younger information workers (IT staffs for example) are twice as likely to use Apple products as older ones.

Higher income workers are more likely to use Apple products as well, but there is a “younger worker” issue here. Most of the sample of 10,000 global information workers earns less than $50,000 a year, but the adoption rate of Apple products is almost 17 percent even in the bottom quartile of workers who make less than $12,000 per year.

Keep in mind, also, that the survey was global in scope, and Information workers in countries outside North America and Europe were more likely to use Apple products for work. Annual salaries also might tend to be lower in non-European and North American settings.

Where click through rates are concerned, screen size matters. Simply put, larger screens tend to get higher click through rates, and some devices tend to have higher engagement than others. Smart phone screens tend to get click throughs at about a two-percent to four-percent rate.

Larger tablet screens such as those sported by the Apple iPad or Samsung Galazy get CTRs of about nine percent. The results are generally similar across device brands.

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