Usability expert Jakob Nielsen tests Amazon’s tiny screen Kindle Fire: ‘A disappointingly poor user experience’

“Amazon.com’s new Kindle Fire offers a disappointingly poor user experience,” Jakob Nielsen reports. “Using the web with the Silk browser is clunky and error-prone. Reading downloaded magazines is not much better.”

“The most striking observation from testing the Fire is that everything is much too small on the screen, leading to frequent tap errors and accidental activation,” Nielsen reports. “You haven’t seen the fat-finger problem in its full glory until you’ve watched users struggle to touch things on the Fire. One poor guy spent several minutes trying to log in to Facebook, but was repeatedly foiled by accidentally touching the wrong field or button — this on a page with only 2 text fields and 1 button. Our iPad testing showed that full sites work quite well on 10-inch tablets.”

MacDailyNews Take: One naturally thinks that a 7-inch screen would offer 70% of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a 7-inch screen is only 45% as large as iPad’s 10-inch screen. You heard me right: Just 45% as large.

If you take an iPad an hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on these 7-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the ipad’s display. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion. While one could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of their present size.

Apple has done extensive user testing on tough interfaces over many years and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touchscreen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps… The 7-inch tablets are tweeners. Too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.

These are among the reasons we think the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA. Dead On Arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the 7-inch bandwagon with an orphaned product.

Sounds like lots of fun ahead.Steve Jobs, October 18, 2010

Nielsen continues, “The Fire is a heavy object. It’s unpleasant to hold for extended periods of time. Unless you have forearm muscles like Popeye, you can’t comfortably sit and read an engaging novel all evening… Screen updates are too slow, so scrolling can feel erratic and there’s a huge lag in response after pressing command-buttons. This breaks the illusion of direct manipulation. It’s odd that this happens; the Fire supposedly has a fast CPU and doesn’t push as many pixels as the iPad does. Must be sloppy programming.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It speaks volumes about the so-called “tablet market” that The Great Hope of iPad Wannabes is a slab o’ crap from an online retailer.

MacDailyNews Note: Jakob Nielsen has been called:
• “the king of usability” (Internet Magazine)
• “the guru of Web page usability” (The New York Times)
• “the smartest person on the Web” (ZDNet AnchorDesk)
• “the world’s leading expert on Web usability” (U.S. News & World Report)
• “the world’s leading expert on user-friendly design” (Stuttgarter Zeitung, Germany)
• “one of the world’s foremost experts in Web usability” (Business Week)
• “the Web’s usability czar” (WebReference.com)
• “the reigning guru of Web usability” (FORTUNE)
• “eminent Web usability guru” (CNN)
• “the usability Pope” (Wirtschaftswoche Magazine, Germany)/blockquote>

Related articles:
Instapaper creator reviews Amazon’s tiny screen Kindle Fire: Bad game player, bad app platform, bad web browser, bad video player and bad Kindle – November 18, 2011
PCWorld reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Flawed, unimpressive, subpar; can’t hold a candle to iPad – November 16, 2011
Mossberg reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Frustrating, clunky, much less capable and versatile than iPad – November 16, 2011
Apple iPad 2 vs. Amazon Kindle Fire: Bootup, browsing, and Netflix streaming (with video) – November 16, 2011
Wired reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Web browsing sucks, emotionally draining, makes reading a chore – November 14, 2011
NY Times’ Pogue reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Sluggish, ornery, unpolished – November 14, 2011
The Verge reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Uninspired, confusing, incredibly unoriginal – November 14, 2011
Engadget reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Sluggish, clunky, too limiting and restricted – November 14, 2011

PC Magazine reviews Apple iOS 5: The best phone and tablet OS, Editors’ Choice – October 15, 2011
The Guardian reviews Apple iPad 2: Ahead of the pack – March 25, 2011
The Telegraph reviews Apple iPad 2: Does everything better; now’s the perfect time to join the iPad club – March 25, 2011
Computerworld reviews Apple’s iPad 2: ‘The Holy Grail of computing’ – March 16, 2011
Ars Technica reviews Apple iPad 2: Big performance gains in a slimmer package
Associated Press reviews Apple iPad 2: Apple pulls further ahead – March 10, 2011
PC Mag reviews Apple iPad 2: The tablet to get; Editors’ Choice – March 10, 2011
Associated Press reviews Apple iPad 2: Apple pulls further ahead – March 10, 2011
PC Mag reviews Apple iPad 2: The tablet to get; Editors’ Choice – March 10, 2011
Pogue reviews Apple iPad 2: Thinner, lighter, and faster transforms the experience – March 10, 2011
Baig reviews Apple iPad 2: Second to none – March 10, 2011

42 Comments

  1. Ouch!!!
    The Fire is NOT competition for the iPad. PERIOD. It is a fancy kindle, not a cheap tablet. There is a difference.

    BTW: My iPad can view Kindle, Nook, AND iBook material. And the Fire can view …. ONLY kindle books. So in buying into the Fire ecosystem, you are imposing limitations on yourself in MANY WAYS.

    1. Understand the sentiment, but could you find a different word to describe your friend? As a parent of a “retarded” child, it sucks to see it used in such a derogatory manner. It shouldn’t be a label of shame. If your friend is clueless, or ignorant, or asinine, please say so.

      1. Retarded is perfectly valid, even if “backward” might be better. I am the Grandfather of an adopted “retarded” granddaughter and kids so handicapped are no longer referred to in this manner by schools or pretty much anywhere else in the system. (They are now referred to as LD – Learning Disability kids.) I don’t take ANY offense to the use of this term. To me its another one of those lefty PC sensitivity issues that is a little ridiculous.

  2. I corrected MDN’s take:

    “It speaks volumes about the so-called “tablet market” that The Great Hope of iPad Wannabes is a slab o’ crap from an online retailer AND WHICH IS BEING SOLD AT A LOSS.”

  3. Obviously, someone who is called a “usability expert” would hate Kindle Fire more than anyone.

    If Amazon was going to go through the trouble of customizing Android beyond recognition (as “Android”), the Kindle Fire development team should have done a much better job. After all, they are making the Kindle Fire simpler and more limited, compared to other tablets. That should make it more efficient and easier to test for usability, because LESS is expected of the OS and built-in software. It should feel MORE “snappy” and streamlined.

    1. I’ve been a user interface designer for almost two decades, and I can tell you that Jakob is overrated. His idea of usability is plain black text on a white background with no navigation. He thinks all end users are morons with fat fingers. I don’t care where he got his degree from, he over simplifies things.

  4. Jakob Nielsen who? For someone so acclaimed, this is the first article I’ve read that highlighted this guy’s status as a “Usability Expert” among other takes… I may not own the Interstate, but I’ve been around the block a few times that I’m not totally out of the know… Just sayn’, this guy hasn’t popped on my radar screen from all the stuff i’ve read…

    1. Apparently he holds a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction from the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen and he’s written a slew of books on the subject. Also he seems to have a bunch of accolades as reprinted by MDN. Just because you haven’t heard of someon doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

  5. Some of the TechTard journalists are chattering this week about how well the Kindle Fire is selling, as if the ‘tablet’ market finally has a competitor with the Apple iPad. Bullscheiße!

    I’m happy there is finally an android 7″ some people consider worth buying, despite its crap reviews. Good on Amazon!

    Meanwhile, in the ACTUAL tablet market: There are no competitors with Apple’s iPad. There are only FAILed OtherPads. And the body count is accelerating.

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