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Friday, December 15, 2006

Why Numbers are the Future of the Mobile Web

If you're a true net addict, you probably use your mobile phone to check your favorite sites in between meetings or during your commute, enduring the often painfully slow loading times and microscopic text. Of course, even before the waiting begins, you still have to tap in the URL of your chosen site. Yes, it's nice to be able access sites on the go, but do the addresses really have to be that long? After all, not everyone can afford a $180 laser projection keyboard.

Most phones require multiple taps on each key to select the right letter so it might take up to four taps to get a given letter. For instance, to get to Google requires 23 taps compared to Yahoo's 22. Overstated has created a tap calculator that you can play around with. One thing you'll find is that long and tortuous URLs don't always require that many more taps than short and simple ones. For example, Flickr only beats del.icio.us by one tap.

What's the moral of the story? Who thought tapping was the best way to input text? It's incredibly inefficient. For the webmasters and bloggers out there, the lesson is to have URLs that don't cause RSI in your readers' thumbs. Having plenty of numbers in your site address is an even better idea. As more people start using their phones to surf the web, quick and easy access to your site will be crucial. I'd bet that sites based in Japan and South Korea where 3G penetration is more extensive have already learned the lesson or soon will. Already, I've noticed that Chinese websites often contain numbers, and some have URLs that are purely numbers.


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