Parent’s Choice – A Cross Platform Touch Web Site

Taptu released the second edition of their monthly  Touch Web Report today. Taptu defines the Touch Web as consisting of sites that are optimized for touch screen phones, including touch screen feature phones, rather than for a specific device like the iPhone. To date Taptu has found 326,000 touch web sites. In comparison there are only about 148,000 apps in the iPhone app store.  Because it’s not limited to a single device or subject to arbitratry approval processes, the Touch Web is a far more democratic development platform than iPhone apps.  It reaches a bigger market too, touch screen phones account for about 10% of total phones in use worldwide compared to less than 3% for the iPhone.

Parent's   Choice Touch Web Site

I’m excited about the rise of the Touch Web as an alternative to single platform app stores.  But what about the 90% of phones that aren’t touchscreens, will they be left behind by the shift to the Touch Web? In many cases the answer seems to be yes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. While touch makes some types of navigation easier, to achieve maximum reach it’s important for designers to insure that their sites are usable with only the directional keys and OK button found on a  phone keypad.  Another potential problem is that many touch sites use JavaScript, to do things like refreshing content without reloading the page or validating  web forms locally instead of requiring a server round trip  and page reload. That’s all well and good but many web capable phones don’t have JavaScript support.

That’s where progressive enhancement techniques come in. It’s possible, practical and relatively easy to build pages that use JavaScript, when available, but provide a fall back to pure html for browsers without scripting support.

Parent’s Choice, is an example  of a Touch Web site’ from Taptu’s report that has an unnecessary JavaScript dependency.  The site at is from  a US non-profit on the same name that reviews and recommends toys.

It’s optimized for the typical touchscreen width of 320px, but is quite usable in all mobile browsers that support JavaScript, including Opera Mini. Users can search for recomended toys and children’s books by category, child’s age and price. Results include a photo, description, a button to email the listing and another button to purchase the item from an online merchant, generally Amazon or Simon & Shuster.

Unfortunately, the links to Simon and Shuster go to the publisher’s non-mobile home page rather than to a page where you can actually purchase the toy or book, hurting usability.

The Parent’s Choice site just misses being usable in browsers without JavaScript support. Everything works except for the search form’s submit button which calls a JavaScript routine to validate input and then post the form.  The relatively simple addition of a fallback to a pure  html submit would allow the site work with many more browsers.

Filed in: Wap Review Directory – Shopping

Ratings: Content ****_ Usability XXX__ Score: 2 “Bad”

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