Apple mobile website access criticism 'flawed'

Accessibility firm questions adequacy of Google's GetMoMeter for rating mobile access to sites

Research that criticised the accessibility of Apple's website for mobile users is flawed as it is based on 'inadequate' metrics, a customer experience agency has said.

Apple was criticised in a report in New Media Age last week for not having a mobile optimised website - an issue that could particularly affect visitors looking to make purchases from the company while using mobile devices, the article claimed.

Using Google's GetMoMeter, NMA's research looked at five key areas of several websites belonging to companies selling goods online. GetGoMeter is a tool designed by Google to give businesses a set of best practice guidelines governing mobile access to websites in order to help them attract and retain visitors using mobile devices.

Key areas of concern in the NMA's research were broken images and missing content when the site is accessed on a mobile device, as well as whether text can be read without scrolling or zooming. Other areas the GetGoMeter examines are whether links and buttons can easily be clicked with a thumb, whether the shopping cart is at the top of the page and whether your location and phone number are visible on the page.

"Apple's site... was tested via both the Google GetMo site and separately on an iPhone and on both occassions it failed to display clearly on the mobile screen," NMA's Ronan Shields wrote in the report. Apple's website was given a zero out of five rating in the report, contrasting with the five-star ratings given to retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Next and Tesco.

But customer experience agency Webcredible's founder and commercial director Trenton Moss told Macworld that the tests employed by NMA, which used Google's new GetGoMeter tool, were "inadequate" for assessing mobile access to websites.

"The guidelines used in the report are valid and important but customer experience is wider than accessibility-type questions like text size and link size, which I think hasn't been taken into consideration here," said Moss.

"We would suggest that even the basic variables tested by the GetMoMeter are inadequate and should be weighted and altered depending on your target audience. For example, Apple customers will be very used to zooming in when they want to see something in bigger font size and probably don't think twice about the fact that they need to on the site to be able to read the text."

What NMA's report also fails to consider is that iOS users have a way of accessing Apple's online store without having to use a browser as there is a dedicated App Store app for the iPhone and iPad. "Apple has clearly made a choice not to bother with a mobile-optimised site and instead put all its efforts into getting the app right - with good results," Moss told Macworld.

"This makes sense given Apple's business-model bias towards apps. My biggest worry for Apple would be how good the user experience is on Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phones as they might not have the same learned behaviours as a current Apple customer but are still potential customers."

Moss did concede, though, that the experience for mobile users visiting Apple's website wasn't perfected, and pointed to his own company's Multichannel Retail Customer Experience Report as proof.

"Our multichannel retail report didn't give Apple full marks, and there are clearly many improvements that Apple can make in terms of usability and user experience guidelines, however the highly optimised and successful app meant we didn't score it down on the lack of mobile optimised website," Moss said.

"We would argue that it is more the cleverness and innovation of the design, in line with human behaviours and needs that is more important. So for a retail mobile site it is more about appropriate to investigate functionality like interacting with customers whilst in store and store search interactions in relation to your location."

However, the App Store app, which was updated just over a week ago, isn't immune from criticism - several users have posted comments in the Customer Reviews section complaining about the fact that it is simply a universal iOS app and doesn't have a dedicated iPad version.

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Ben Camm-Jones

Macworld U.K.
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