Will the projected 3.9 million Kindle Fire buyers this quarter end up disappointed with their new tablets? User-experience guru Jakob Nielse…

Amazon Kindle Fire games
photo: Amazon

Will the projected 3.9 million Kindle Fire buyers this quarter end up disappointed with their new tablets? User-experience guru Jakob Nielsen’s new usability report finds the Fire’s 7-inch screen troublesome, the magazine-reading experience poor and the device as a whole slow and heavy.

Nielsen’s full report is here. It doesn’t take into account the technical problems many Kindle Fire users have experienced, notably the inability to connect to WiFi. Some of Nielsen’s findings:

»  Fat-Finger Problem “Everything is much too small on the screen, leading to frequent tap errors and accidental activation.” Mobile sites work well on the Fire’s 7-inch screen, but full sites don’t, even though they work fine on the iPad’s 10-inch screen. “Using designs intended for a full screen on a 7-inch tablet is like squeezing a size-10 person into a size-7 suit. Not going to look good. But that’s what the Fire is trying to do,” Nielsen writes. He recommends that Kindle Fire users set the device to mobile view.

» Bad For Reading The Kindle Fire is heavy and “unpleasant to hold for extended periods of time,” Nielsen writes. “Unless you have forearm muscles like Popeye, you can’t comfortably sit and read an engaging novel all evening.” Of course, people who primarily want a device for reading straight text were never best off buying the Kindle Fire, and it hasn’t been heavily marketed as an e-reader.

The area where Kindle Fire could shine–full-color interactive magazine reading–is where it’s a particular failure, Nielsen says. A couple of his complaints:

–Many magazines don’t have a no “homepage” where users can return after finishing an article.
–Headlines on magazine covers aren’t clickable, even though we’ve known that users want this since our first iPad studies in early 2010. (Honorable exception: in our study, Vanity Fair did allow users to tap a headline on the cover to go directly to the corresponding story.)
–“Page View” is unreadable and “Text View” has the worst layout I’ve seen in years. Illustrations are either too big or too small and are usually located far from the place they’re discussed in the copy.

»  The Future Of 7-Inch Tablets Seven-inch tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet “have either a glorious future or will fail miserably,” Nielsen concludes:

For 7-inch tablets to succeed, service and content providers must design specifically for these devices. Repurposed designs from print, mobile phones, 10-inch tablets, or desktop PCs will fail, because they offer a terrible user experience. A 7-inch tablet is a sufficiently different form factor that it must be treated as a new platform. Furthermore, these mid-sized tablets are so weak that suboptimal designs — that is, repurposed content — won’t work. Optimize for 7-inch or die.

Nielsen says developers need a prospect of high sales to create content specifically for the Kindle Fire and other 7-inch tablets. If the platform “becomes a raving success and quickly sells in large numbers (say, 50 million copies by end of 2013),” we’ll have the “economic foundation” to create that specific content. We’re already seeing publishers like the Wall Street Journal and Weather Channel create apps specifically for the Fire. Nielsen does not mention the broader problem our mobile editor Tom Krazit has raised, which is that Kindle Fire runs its own version of Android, so Fire-specific development may fragment the Android marketplace.

If the Kindle Fire’s sales aren’t as high as projected, “the platform will either die or be reduced to serving poor people who can’t afford a full-sized tablet,” Nielsen concludes. “A small audience won’t offer much incentive for providers to publish 7-inch-optimized content and services. The resulting unpleasant user experience will drive any remaining affluent users to buy bigger tablets.”

  1. It is really quite simple…they should have bought an iPad!

    1. Let’s see – 4 Kindle Fire’s or ONE top end iPad….

      1. Really? So to you price is everything regardless of functionality? The truth of the matter is that the Kindle Fire is limited. While it might be fine for some applications.. it fails miserably at others.

  2. MedicoritySucksA Monday, December 5, 2011

    Proof read your article you shameless hack.

  3. What BS. I think Apple has been buying negative reviews…just look at the name of this website…lol…

    1. What’s BS is your comment. The minute someone post something true.. “Apple has been paying for negative reviews”. Come on!

      Have you ever USED a Kindle Fire and an iPad? If you have, what wasn’t true? Have you ever tried reading a magazine on a 7″ inch screen as opposed to a 10″ inch one. The experience is QUITE different.

      If you guys are going to talk BS at least test the damn devices before posting your nonsense.

  4. I am probably still buying one of these because I’m looking for something bigger than my smart phone and cheaper than an iPad. I’d love an iPad, but $500 (to start) is not in my near future.  Full web pages may not work great on a 7in screen, but they work much worse on a 3in screen.  I think of it as an entry-level tablet, like the hatchback is an entry-level car.  It’s ugly, but it will get you where you need to go for a lot less.

  5. What are you talking about?!  I own an iPad, Asus Transformer and now a Kindle Fire, and must say the fire is the best mobile experience of any of them simply because of the form factor.  There is not UI delays that you speak of (I guess I have a magical one…)  The latest upage 6.2 fixed most if not all the funky touch input issues and also browser slowness.  The biggest thing that amazon and all android platforms need to do it turn web plugins to on-demand – this will make your browsing expirence much better as its not loading all the flash ads that many sites post EVERYWHERE…

    I find it hard that people are having issues hitting the correct links on the websites, I have never seen it register the wrong link when I press on the screen.
    Viewing movies and tv shows through netflix, amazons, or Hulu+ is a breeze, and performs better than any other tablet device on the market in this respect (video load times, searching within a video, and buffer speed).Reading on the device is wonderful – it is about 1/2lb less than the iPad or Transformer – and you can easily hold it in one hand (palm it).

    Magazines are quite bad at this moment, but I expect this to change quickly as more companies build kindle specific versions… just like the ipad, etc.  currently they are simply PDF style documents not designed for the wide screen aspect ratio…

    For most users of tablets this is a perfect device, it plays the games they want (angry birds, cut the rope, fruit ninja, scrabble, monopoly, etc..) and connects them to their kindle library, music, and movies/tv shows.


  6. Ah yes.  Jakob Nielsen of the Nielson Norman Group who maintains one of the least usable websites around.  Which begs the question of why do people listen to this idiot?

  7. GlobalParadox Monday, December 5, 2011

    My experience is much different than the author. I love the fire and have been taking it on business trips instead of the iPad. (OK, a Phone, laptop and table for a one week trip is a bit of electronic overkill.) However, I would much rather use the fire sitting on a plane than my iPad. The same goes for my pleasure reading on a road trip. My experience web surfing on the fire is fine, more or less the same as iPad. I can’t speak to the magazine issues because I haven’t used the fire or iPad for that purpose.

  8. I smell an Apple fanboy!  Ah yes…there she is…Laura Hazard Owen fanboy(girl) extraordinaire!  We haven’t had any complaints on the screen size at http://kindlefireforums.com.  In fact it’s looked at as a benefit.

  9. Fire works just fine for me.  I don’t need to pay laptop computer prices (e.g. IPad, Galaxy Tab, etc.) to simply enjoy digital content.  If I do choose to pay laptop computer prices, i want a fully capable computer, and not something in between an e-reader, digital content device and computer.  Yes, content providers will need to optimize their content for a best-in-class user experience, but this comes with product acceptance and maturity.

  10. I like my kindle fire. I don’t have big fingers/.  It’s just fine to play games, watch videos, play music surf the web a little and read for a short time.  I’d rather read books on my older e-ink kindle, though.  It’s more soothing to my eyes.  I have a leather targus cover that converts to a stand.  So, I haven’t really held the thing in my hands for long periods of time.  I’d definitely buy one again.


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