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WAP is CWAP – Jakob Nielsen

Usability guru joins WAPlash

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A report published today recommends that companies looking to offer mobile Internet services should delay their entry into the marketplace until the technology improves.

The report claims the true potential for the mobile Internet isn't expected to gain momentum until 2003.

It argues that users are turned off by the WAP experience and that it simply does not live up to their expectations - regardless of the hype peddled by telcos.

The study adds further weight to the growing number of users who've tried the technology but conclude that WAP is CWAP.

Twenty people in London were asked to test the user-friendliness of the technology. After being handed the blessed things and told to use them for a week, 70 per cent of people said they would not consider getting a WAP phone within the next year. Only 20 per cent said they would like to get one within the next three years.

Those who tested WAP said that even the simplest tasks took too much time to be of any real use. The performance of WAP was described as "appallingly low".

"In my opinion, WAP stands for Wrong Approach to Portability," said Jakob Nielsen of the Silicon Valley-based user-experience think tank and consulting firm, Nielsen Norman Group.

"Companies shouldn't waste money fielding WAP services that nobody will use while WAP usability remains so poor.

"Instead, they should sit out the current generation of WAP while planning their mobile Internet strategy," he said.

The report's title, WAP Usability - Deja Vu: 1994 All Over Again, refers to the fact that the study's findings are strikingly similar to usability studies conducted by Nielsen in 1994 at the beginning of the Web phenomena.

And he predicts that the evolution of Internet mobility will follow along the same analogy - as the technology gets easier to use, so too will it increase in popularity.

Still, that hasn't stopped Nielsen from trying to cash in on WAP. You can obtain your own copy of the study by downloading it from the Nielsen and Norman Web site here.

Although $18 to find out WAP is CWAP does seem a bit steep. ®

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