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Summary:

There’s a huge difference between the mobile web and the touch-friendly mobile web. Why is that important? Every touch device is a potential sale for e-commerce, a category that commands the majority of touch-friendly sites. Build an old-school mobile portal and you might lose a sale.

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Are you tapping your way around the web these days? More of us are, thanks to touch-friendly devices and web pages optimized for them. But what types of sites and services are the most available for caressing? I would have thought news or blogs to take top billing, but boy was I wrong. According to Taptu, creator of a touch-friendly search engine, my money should have been on shopping and e-commerce. Based on Taptu’s Touch Friendly Web Report for February, we’re able to do more shopping with our fingers than anything else on the mobile web.

Taptu built the results from a scan over 113 million sites and consider 334,800 of them to be “touch-friendly.” Shopping and services comprise 24.8% of that overall pool — nearly one in every four touch-friendly sites is a place to buy goods or services. How did my picks of news and blogs do? Only 3.3% and 1.3% of those touch-friendly mobile sites were news or weblogs. Good thing I didn’t place money on my picks.

I wouldn’t have thought too much about this topic, but now that I’ve read the report, I recall a recent frustration with what I’d consider a touch-friendly site in the e-commerce world. I was having issues with a third-party Starbucks app on my Android handset and couldn’t retrieve the balance on my Starbucks card. Thinking I was smart, I just tapped my way over to the Starbucks site in my browser. Then I noticed how limited the mobile site was — basically I could find a Starbucks location, but I couldn’t check my card balance. That’s a function available on the less-touch-friendly desktop site but not on the mobile site. And although it’s not Starbucks’ fault, I couldn’t get the full site to open on my phone — the browser kept returning to the less functional mobile site.

Now that I look through the Taptu report and see examples of true touch-friendly sites, I’m inclined to define Starbucks as only having a mobile site, and not a touch-friendly one. Yes, I can tap on the site, but that’s simply an inherent function of my phone and its browser. The examples that Taptu offers show rich interfaces that look more like native apps — not tappable hyperlinks, circa-2001. Here’s a sample from the report to illustrate — aren’t these appealing touch-friendly apps when compared to my example? I’m not trying to pick on Starbucks here, it’s simply a recent example. And this might even give the company some constructive criticism to enhance their mobile site.

A few years ago, having a mobile site was considered forward-thinking. But as Colin notes at GigaOm, web developers of today have to consider how and where potential customers will access the sites. At some point in the near future, non-friendly sites for touch devices could mean no sale, which defeats the very purpose of expanding sales opportunities across hundreds of millions of handsets.

Taptu’s February report is freely available and is the second in a monthly series focused on the touchable web. After you give it a read, let me know if the results surprise you. More importantly though — what’s your stance on third-party apps vs well designed web sites for e-commerce and content consumption? Have you ever taken your business elsewhere because of a poorly designed mobile e-commerce or service site?

Image courtesy of Taptu

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  1. If you use a site like Unity Mobile ( http://unitymobile.com ) they can set up a mobile shopping site, plus make that site an app. They also offer full SMS services so you can send out coupons via text messages.

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