November 1, 2011, 12:00 AM

As tablets become mainstream, many retailers are missing the boat

As tablets become mainstream, many retailers are missing the boat.

26 million U.S. adults already use tablet computers, a figure that will rise to 82 million by 2015, according to Forrester Research Inc. Yet a study by web design firm Alexander Interactive found the top 10 retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide lacking in tablet-friendly site designs.

"All suffered from usability problems," Alexander Interactive says. Inc.'s site, recently redesigned with tablets in mind, was the most tablet-friendly, the study found. The new design is simpler and less cluttered, with larger buttons that are easy for tablet users to tap compared with standard links or smaller buttons, Alexander Interactive says.

Amazon's biggest improvement is a fly-out window that swoops out when a user touches Shop By Department; the menu's bold text reads well on both PC monitors and tablets. What's more, the category links function correctly when tapped on a tablet, which can't be said for all of the top 10 e-retailers' sites, the design firm says.

It also praises Nike Inc. "Browsing to reveals a beautiful and engaging web site built for the iPad," the report says. "The site features high-resolution photography and a tap-friendly user interface."

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