PSFK has published a report (disconcerting, damning or riotous, depending on your station) showing that many top luxury brand websites don’t function on the iPad. (That image above is the Prada home page.) Given that Apple buyers are often luxury product consumers, this is a glaring omission for some of the world’s strongest brands.
The iPad is a reminder that the web is now rapidly moving away from the “build a website, let it run” strategy. A growing diversity of web-enabled devices is going to force companies to build websites that make usability the prime directive. The direct problem is the use of Flash, but the real issue is the lack of universal accessibility.
The growth in broadband mobile networks has led to rapid adoption of web access by consumers. Smartphones are nearing 20% of the American cellular marketplace and are expected to reach 30% soon. Ai clients saw growth in mobile traffic as high as 600% over 2009 alone.
The iPad is the latest and most profound bellwether in this usage shift. Contemplating how to service users with 1.5″ BlackBerry screens was one thing; dealing with iPad users, with their 1024×768 screens and just-like-a-laptop-only-better expectations, is entirely another. And while the iPad may be just a first step in an evolution, a million unit sales in a month suggests someone found the keys to the steamroller.
Computers are not going away; manufacturers shipped 68 million of them in 2008 alone. More important is the fragmentation of the marketplace, which, years after homogenizing almost entirely in Internet Explorer for Windows, is now an open landscape. Four different browsers have substantial (greater than 3%) market share. And dozens of devices are now displaying web pages in displays ranging from 320 to 1920 pixels in width, both with and without Flash.
The requirement for 2010, then, is to adapt to the fragments. Good websites need to actively identify visitors’ platforms and deliver user-centric results–not just the Amazons and Facebooks of the web, but the many small- and medium-size sites that encourage exploration and engagement. As platforms continue to diversify, creating flexible, accessible sites is a must.