January 4, 2012
Tablets are taking over ecommerce, but is your website still stuck in the pre-tablet era? If your site is woefully lacking a tablet-friendly experience, here are six ways to fix that and solve the "tablet problem" once and for all.
#1: Web Apps. In the early days of the iPhone, there was no App Store. Amidst security concerns, it was unclear whether iOS would ever be opened to third-party developers, so web apps ruled. But, as we all know, iOS was opened up and with it an App Store gold rush began. Most websites abandoned web app development. With the rise of tablets, however, web apps make sense once again.
Web apps make the most sense for any website that sells subscriptions. By making the app browser-based, you avoid the app store—and the 30% cut Apple takes on all subscription-based sales, as well as Apple's convoluted app approval process. Best examples: The Financial Times
#2: App Store Apps. Native iOS applications, as opposed to web apps, have their pros and cons. Provided your app is approved by Apple—and you can stomach the 30% cut Apple takes on all sales—a native iOS app may make sense for you. Not only is the experience of using an iOS app a heck of a lot more elegant and enjoyable, but some users will only download iOS apps, neglecting web apps entirely. Best examples: The New York Times, Gilt Groupe
#3: Lightbox Switchers. Let's say you decide to cover all bases and develop a web app, iOS app, and a tablet website—what then? When tablet users first arrive on your website, it's best to show them a lightbox that welcomes them, explains the different options for accessing your content and then asks them to pick the one they prefer for the current and future visits. Best examples: Wired, Publishing Executive
#4: Technographic Targeting. You don't have to develop a tablet-specific website, you just have to make sure your current website looks great on tablets. QVC does this with aplomb, and goes a step further: They use technographic targeting to show visitors with a larger, non-tablet screen additional, "recently on-air" items.
#5: Responsive Design. Using responsive design allows you to create many websites in one. Sites using responsive design adjust to your experience whether you're on a tablet, mobile phone, or desktop computer. Best examples: The Boston Globe, Ethan Marcotte, Atlason, Warface
#6: Dedicated Tablet Websites. There's nothing like having a website that's designed specifically for tablets. Nike.com, for example, absolutely shines on the tablet, making generous use of swipe gestures and tapping. It's a must-see. Best examples: Nike, Terra
BONUS: Better Yet, Use Them All. Different visitors will want to interact with your website in different ways. Some will prefer iOS apps, some won't care if you use a web app, and some will prefer dedicated tablet sites. The best solution, by far, is to offer a variety of solutions for different visitors.