Google paves the way for Tablet-friendly websites

Mike Halsey MVP
Jul 31, 2011
Updated • Nov 30, 2012

This has been a long time coming and, to be honest is already way behind schedule.  However Google is the first company to make it's search page finger-friendly for tablet operating systems.  In a move that will be welcomed by almost everybody the new look will be automatically implemented when the website detects you're using a tablet OS.

In a blog post the company said, "As part of our effort to evolve the Google design and experience, we’ve improved the search experience on tablets.  We’ve simplified the layout of search results pages and increased the size of page contents like text, buttons and other touch targets to make it faster and easier to browse and interact with search results in portrait or landscape view.

The search button located below the search box provides quick access to specific types of results like Images, Videos, Places, Shopping and more. Just tap to open the search menu and select an option to see results in one category."

This is much more than just providing a larger search box and search button though.  Google have really thought this one through with more spacing between search results, large thumbnail images and better usability throughout.  For this the company should be applauded.

There will be problems with this however.  On initial inspection Windows 8 on tablets won't get the new interface as the website will recognise the OS as a desktop operating system.  Windows 7 also won't get it at all.  While it can be argued that it might be difficult to tell Windows 8 on a tablet and desktop apart for this system, it's also a way for Google to maintain a lead over Microsoft and, perhaps, even the iPad if they refuse to support iOS.

tablet google

These questions have yet to be answered and if Google go down this route they could face complaints from competitors for anti-competitive behaviour.

However this move is also an indicator of a much larger problem and one that won't be going away for a good few years yet.  That being the unfriendliness of the general web when it comes to touch.  So far companies have been relying on specific apps to deliver their user experience, and it's entirely possible that an app-centric way to access these services will be the way forward.  Major websites such as Amazon, eBay and Facebook are making no progress in making their websites finger-friendly, nor have they or any other websites yet publicly come out and said they will do so.

This is annoying and frustrating and ultimately will hurt the companies themselves.  Adding a different finger-friendly style sheet to a website is a small matter, hardly worthy of a multi-million dollar investment.  It would make the world of difference to people using these websites on both tablets and smartphones.

In short this is something that needs to be addressed right now for all the companies who are not yet considering it.  The problem isn't going away and it could take a website a year to decide on what format they will adopt for their users and how they will implement it.  In that time the whole tablet market will have moved on considerably, there will be new operating systems available from Microsoft, Mozilla and MeeGo and the number of consumers and businesses using these devices will have grown exponentially.

In the mean time Google is the only company to have publicly come out and done something positive about the problem.  All that remains is to see if the company will make the finger-friendly improvements across all tablet operating systems or just Android.  Google leading the way here could change the websites we visit forever.


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