August 23, 2011, 1:37 PM

Mobile tablet design should defy conventional thinking

Think about a fashion magazine layout rather than a web site, says an MCF speaker.

Lead Photo

Chris Maliwat urges bold thinking for tablets.

Designing a successful mobile site for tablet users begins with a change in conventional thinking, says Chris Maliwat, vice president, product management at flash sale retailer Gilt Groupe. He will speak at Mobile Commerce Forum 2011 in Houston Oct. 12 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. in a session entitled “Designing for tablets: from niche to mainstay access device.

For conventional mobile commerce sites and apps, the design needs to feature page templates and functionality that get busy smartphone users to product information, deals and checkout as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But in designing a successful mobile commerce program for tablets, short and sweet is out. What’s in is creating a design that gives tablet users a chance to view product pages with ample imagery and content, along with sophisticated features and functionality, says Maliwat.  “When you design for a tablet user, it’s a very different experience entirely,” he says. “Effective tablet design is like creating a beautiful but functional magazine layout.”

At Gilt Group an effective tablet design reflects the company’s changing business model and approach to mobile commerce. Gilt, No. 49 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, began as a private-event sales site, but the business has changed to include flash sales as well as the launch this month of the more traditional, full-priced e-commerce site ParkandBond.com, where consumers can buy fashionable apparel, shoes and accessories.

“We began our mobile commerce program as an experiment because people wanted to use their smartphones to get in on a sale no matter where they were,” says Maliwat. “Now we are designing for tablets that still deliver an anywhere, anytime experience, but also for shoppers who want more content and functionality.”

After 18 months of work, Gilt Group recently rolled out an iPad app that uses HTML5 coding to present better images. “By really focusing on the visuals, you are going to draw the tablet user in even more deeply,” he says.

Taking a longer view of mobile commerce design, including tablets, has benefited Gilt Group. “Between 15% and 20% of all of our revenue now comes from mobile commerce,” says Maliwat. “Just a year ago it was about 8%.”

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Maliwat to speak because of his expertise in mobile commerce, e-commerce and design. Before joining Gilt, Maliwat was director of product management for personalization at Netflix, vice president of product management of Vuze and senior global product manager for eBay. He also was co-founder and senior architect for V2 Group, a provider of product strategy and design services for clients including Intuit, Inktomi and Seagate.

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