September 6, 2007, 12:00 AM

Amazon tops Forrester’s list of mobile web sites

But all mobile sites need improvement, Forrester Research concludes from a review of 20 web sites designed for cell phones. Few consumers find today’s mobile sites useful, but more advanced devices like Apple’s iPhone could change things, Forrester says.

Few consumers find navigating the Internet on mobile phones a satisfying experience today, and much of that stems from poor mobile web site design, Forrester Research says in a new report. But the analysts identified some best practices in a review of 20 mobile web sites and suggest that the arrival of more advanced handsets like Apple’s iPhone could change the picture.

Forrester rated 20 mobile web sites, four of them retail destinations, and rated Amazon’s the best with a score of 19 out of a possible 30. Among the other retailers, eBay had a score of 11, PriceGrabber 3 and Overstock 1. Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide and Overstock 25. Auction sites like eBay and comparison shopping sites like PriceGrabber are not included in the Internet Retailer Top 500.

Amazon, eBay and PriceGrabber were praised for letting mobile customers find products both by search boxes and menus, and eBay, Overstock and Amazon for relying on the same accounts that customers use when shopping on their computers. Forrester noted that PriceGrabber lets users click to make a purchase by calling the vendor directly from the mobile web site.

Among the flaws cited was that Amazon does not show how many results a search produced or how many pages of search results a user will have to sort through. Forrester noted that eBay does show the number of pages of search results but does not display the search term on the screen.

In general, Forrester says, consumers today find searching the Internet via cell phones an arduous task. Only 21% say they use the mobile web, 23% says it’s easy to find mobile web sites, 21% say those sites are easy to navigate and 23% say the mobile web is enjoyable. Yet, 43% of mobile web users say it’s useful, mainly as a way to obtain information when their laptop or computer is not handy or not connected to the Internet, analyst Vidya Lakshmipathy writes in the Forrester report entitled “Best And Worst Of U.S. Mobile Site Design, 2007.”

Looking forward, Lakshmipathy says the mobile web experience may be transformed by more advanced handsets like Apple’s iPhone that offer high resolution, a full web browser and touch-screen functionality. “Companies with mobile web sites today should supplement their current mobile web efforts by expanding services to these advanced devices,” she writes. “And for companies on the sidelines, the iPhone might be the enabler they need to join the mobile game.”



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