Mobile browsers suck. All of them. Well, most of them anyway. The default Android browser (this probably takes the cake for terrible browsers). Safari. Opera. Chrome. You name it, it sucks. The discussion is only about which browser is the “best” at what it is supposed to do – not which browser delivers a fantastic user experience. This is one of the reasons I simply don’t use the browser on my phone for the most part. In a digital age that is going towards personalization and summarization, information I need is synthesized and delivered much more elegantly by a suite of applications. The likes of Pulse and Flipboard also spawn their own browser instantiations to deliver the overflow content. The font sizes are actually human readable, the experience flows well and most of the time, it is all I need.
So, what is wrong with the browsers and why do they suck so badly? The primary reason for this is that browsers try to deliver the exact same functionality on the mobile as on a desktop. It treats the user no differently. It requires you typing keywords or URLs and navigating to where you need to go. Not to mention the mobile tailored websites with a small amount of acceptably formatted content, navigating through which leads to broken links or horribly rendered content in subsequent parts. While many browsers attempt to resize upon pinch and zoom, it doesn’t work enough number of times for this to be annoying.
Why would the browser try to mirror the big screen experience on the small screen? We don’t use the small screen devices nearly in the same way. We don’t multi-task on our phones at the same scale (no, I am not siding with the first generation iOS here!). We want just the right information delivered in just the right way! So, why is it so difficult to repackage the content in a browser to extract the main parts of it and deliver it just like the user might want it? Fold and add indirection to all other things – navigation bars, headers, side bars, etc. Pull out images and render them in a way that does not make it laborious to navigate to the text. Yet, make the images the center of the focus. Simplify the functionality 10-fold. You simply do not need to be able to do everything that you can do on a 13″ screen! Instead, there is an earnest effort in packaging all of the complexity into the small screen – dozens of tabs, all the extraneous information on a website that prevents me from getting to the information the user needs and so on.
When contextual discovery becomes a reality, how is it going to be delivered? Packaged into this annoying framework of a browser or by actually turning a new leaf and bringing a more immersive experience? At the present state of the browsers, HTML5 based apps are a joke. They may be technically ready (some are not, but they might get there), but are definitely handicapped from a design perspective. Until a major revamp, I’m not going to be ready for any browser based apps on my small screen devices!
Is the browser the most frequently used app on the phone for any of you? Or even among the top 5 apps you use on your phone? I want to hear from you! Tell me what I’m missing.