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Kindle Fire usability study shows 'disappointing' user experience

post #1 of 102
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A small usability study on Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet has found the device offers a "disappointingly poor user experience," especially with respect to web browsing and magazine reading.

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen published his findings (via Daring Fireball) from a qualitative study that tracked four users' experiences with the recently released tablet. According to the report, Amazon's proprietary Silk browser for the Kindle Fire is "clunky and error-prone," while magazine reading 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. You haven't seen the fat-finger problem in its full glory until you've watched users struggle to touch things on the Fire," he said.

During the test, one user spent "several minutes" trying to log in to Facebook because he kept accidentally pressing the wrong field or button. The study found that Fire users are better off opting for mobile versions of sites, which feel "luxurious" because they're designed for 3.5-inch mobile screens.

Participants in the study had between 1.5 and 2.5 years of experience with touchscreen devices -- half were Android users while the other half used Apple's iPhone. Nielsen also pointed out that the study wasn't meant to advise consumers on whether to purchase a Kindle Fire, rather the study's goal was to "discover design guidelines for companies" that may have Kindle Fire users.

But, his observations on the device, which drew from both personal use and the usability study, found the Fire to be a "heavy object" that was "unpleasant to hold" for long periods of time. He also disagreed with the lack of physical buttons for page turning. Other issues that Nielsen had with the Fire included the lack of a home screen button or volume buttons and "bad UI design in many areas."



"For reading fiction, the older Kindle design wins," Nielsen wrote, though he did find that the Fire beat out older Kindle models when it came to reading magazines and light nonfiction. However, Nielsen went on to point out that the magazine reading experience on the Fire "could be good but actually is miserable because the content isn't designed for the device or for interactive reading."

Nielsen also took issue with screen updates being too slow on the Kindle Fire. "Scrolling can feel erratic and there's a huge lag in response after pressing command-buttons," he wrote, noting that the poor performance was a surprise to him and may be caused by "sloppy programming."

"If I were given to conspiracy theories, I'd say that Amazon deliberately designed a poor web browsing user experience to keep Fire users from shopping on competing sites. Amazon's own built-in shopping app has great usability, so they clearly know how to design for the tablet," he wrote.

Nielsen extrapolated the Kindle Fire usability results to mean that 7-inch tablet interfaces in general "have either a glorious future or will fail miserably." He believes that service and content providers will need to design specifically for 7-inch devices in order for them to succeed, since repurposed designs offer a "terrible user experience." As such, he recommends that the 7-inch form factor be treated as a "new platform."

"Furthermore, these mid-sized tablets are so weak that suboptimal designs that is, repurposed content won't work. Optimize for 7-inch or die," wrote Nielsen.

7-inch tablets may face an uphill battle as a result, since magazine publishers, websites, application programmers and other providers will only design for the form factor if there is a critical mass of millions of users. According to him, rapid sales of 7-inch tablets would drive a "virtuous circle" that would support a "rich ecosystem of 7-inch-optimized services," but sluggish sales of the form factor would create a "vicious circle" that would cause the platform to "either die or be reduced to serving poor people who can't afford a full-sized tablet."

With expected Kindle Fire shipments of 3.9 million units this holiday season, Amazon may be on its way to building the base it needs. Though Apple will maintain a sizable 18-month head start with its 9.7-inch iPad, analysts predict Amazon will surpass its other rivals to quickly assume the No. 2 spot in the tablet market.

The results of the Kindle Fire usability study contrast Nielsen's findings for the iPad. He wrote that, based on similar testing of the iPad, "full sites work quite well on 10-inch tablets."

For its part, Apple appears to have discovered similar results to Nielsen's study in its own usability tests. Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs revealed last year that the company had performed thorough research into the ideal size.

"Apple's done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff," Jobs said in a quarterly earnings call. "There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen 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."

Jobs went on to predict that 7-inch tablets would be "Dead on Arrival." In fact, a number of 7-inch iPad competitors have flopped this year. Research in Motion's PlayBook became the most recent casualty when the BlackBerry maker announced last week that it would take a $485 million charge due to unsold Playbook inventory.

Apple management has indicated that it believes the Kindle Fire will actually attract users to iOS and the iPad. According to them, users will "gravitate to more feature-rich experiences," analyst Mark Moskowitz noted them as saying last week.

Ben Reitzes of Barclays Capital also reported the company's top brass as having said that the Kindle Fire would "fuel fragmentation" because it represents another platform. "The more fragmentation, the better, says Apple, since that could drive more consumers to the stable Apple platform," Reitzes wrote in a note to investors last month.
post #2 of 102
I saw videos of people using them when it was first released. It operated like pure garbage and the usability was extremely poor, with the interface being very non responsive and inaccurate.

I don't care if it costs ten dollars. If something is bad, then it's bad, regardless of how little it costs. It also doesn't matter how many they may happen to sell. That is not going to magically transform garbage into something good. Garbage X 3 million is 3 million pieces of garbage.

People who say that they like it, clearly have very low technical standards, as to what they expect from their devices.
post #3 of 102
Even on my iPad, viewing a normal (non-mobile) website, I sometimes zoom in just to be sure I hit the right button. I just don't know how 7" would be practical, though I guess it depends on what particular sites you visit.
post #4 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

Garbage X 3 million is 3 million pieces of garbage.



Quote:
Originally Posted by 'Apple

People who say that they like it, clearly have very low technical standards, as to what they expect from their devices.

Some poster here, you-know-who, is claiming that the Kindle Fire has excellent build quality, better than the iPad2 since it "doesn't slip" and "doesn't have the LCD pooling issues".

It's sad that it is almost 2012 and most electronics manufacturers still don't "get it" and are churning out this plastic that will just clog landfills. Where is Greenpeace now on this issue? HP, Dell, BB, Nokia, RIM, Samsung, now Amazon, just plastic chunk after plastic chunk. The aluminium and glass design is... just... breathtaking, really. Apple is still miles ahead of anyone else. PS3 and Xbox360? Good for gaming but still yet more plastic chunks.
post #5 of 102
My wife bought one. It lasted a week and was a total frustration in its usability. From our family's experience with using one, I would have to agree with all the points in the study.

We returned ours to Amazon and my wife bought a regular Kindle Touch instead.
post #6 of 102
Doesn't matter. The iHaters, trolls, and whiners will just sing the same old song. "just wait till <insert yet another future OS update here> comes out. Then, it will be kewl!"

This usability study comes to no surprise. Typical bottom-barrel tactics and a waste of resources. I'll bet that Bezos knows most will be an impulse-buy, and they will end up gathering dust in some desk drawer or filling some landfill.

Shame on them for manufacturing utter garbage.
post #7 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Some poster here, you-know-who, is claiming that the Kindle Fire has excellent build quality, better than the iPad2 since it "doesn't slip" and "doesn't have the LCD pooling issues".

I read that too. There is no pooling on the iPad. I just pressed the screen on my iPad 2 pretty hard, and there is no pooling at all. Nothing, nada.

There are two possibilities that could explain that statement.

(1) It is a bald faced lie.
(2) Their iPad is very defective, and they should get it fixed, pronto.

post #8 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

Doesn't matter. The iHaters, trolls, and whiners will just sing the same old song. "just wait till <insert yet another future OS update here> comes out. Then, it will be kewl!"

Yep, there's always something new on the horizon that the Fandroids have to look forward to.

"Just wait until Honeycomb comes out, that will fix those issues!"

Then that quickly turned into "Just wait until Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, that will fix those issues!"

By the time Android gets to "Z", the shit will still suck.
post #9 of 102
I'll admit, the usability blows, but I think people are trying to make this out to be more than what it is. It's more of a PMP than a tablet.

Besides the fact that this has nothing to do with Apple (until we see some deformed iPod 7", highly unlikely), the study itself is qualitative and N=4. It's garbage. I can do a qualitative N=4 study on the Macbook Pro and find that it has terrible usability and low ratings, despite the fact that it's arguably the best laptop out there.
post #10 of 102
It's amazing that nearly 5 years after Apple raised the bar and showed the world quality touch interfaces and hardware, other companies continue to make touch products that they know are junk. I actually thought Bezos is the one guy who could demand a quality tablet from his engineers. I'm very surprised that Bezos green lighted the Fire when he undoubtably knew from testing that the 7" platform doesn't work. More than ever, I appreciate Apple's unique talent in the design universe and their insistence on a quality user experience.

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post #11 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

Even on my iPad, viewing a normal (non-mobile) website, I sometimes zoom in just to be sure I hit the right button. I just don't know how 7" would be practical, though I guess it depends on what particular sites you visit.

7” done well would be better than an iPhone (in terms of easy pointing etc.) and worse than iPad. But Safari on iPhone/iPod Touch is already very usable despite being smaller than the Fire; I’m constantly amazed at how easy it is to tap the link I want without zooming in. That’s good programming that figures out what you meant to tap, even if you only tapped near it. In fact, I think people by habit have a little vertical offset (they actually tap low, as if they’re pointing with part of their finger near the nail, rather than with the true center of contact). iOS realizes this, I’m pretty sure: try tapping stuff on an upside-down iPhone and accuracy suffers. And many buttons in iOS have larger touch areas than their visible size. Thus, a 3.5”—or 7”—screen CAN be practical, even if the Fire isn't. These details matter!
post #12 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

Even on my iPad, viewing a normal (non-mobile) website, I sometimes zoom in just to be sure I hit the right button. I just don't know how 7" would be practical, though I guess it depends on what particular sites you visit.

I use pinch to zoom constantly via Safari on my iPad. As to a 7 inch device if it works as well as the current iPad it would be fine, people would choose it where size matters. It is an especially handy size for a reader or for field use.
post #13 of 102
Of course the article here at AppleInciter doesn't say anything about how the same guy had roughly the same things to say about the iPad and its apps too. Selective reporting for the win.
post #14 of 102
It's a toy! When people buy a 200 dollar electronic toy and expect it to perform like a iPad they are bound to get upset.

Where's your Kindle Fire? Oh I think it's in my desk. How do you like it? Um it's OK.
An Apple man since 1977
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post #15 of 102
The thing that surprises me the most is how many people pre-ordered this thing blindly. These people deserve to be disappointed, because frankly speaking, they were ignorant and not thinking very clearly.

I don't have anything in particular against Amazon, I do order stuff from them sometimes, but why would anybody believe that Amazon has the experience or know how to deliver a good tablet product?

Their track record is zero. Their simple e-ink Kindle devices do not count. The people who got excited about the Kindle Fire were operating on pure, blind faith.

Apple is a company with many decades of experience, in both hardware, software and OS'es. Why would anybody think that all of these other companies can just release something and hope to even get close to the level of quality and user experience that Apple has? It makes no sense, but then again, a lot of people out there have very little common sense.

A few moronic fools like to say that Apple has good advertising, and that's why people buy Apple products. Of course, we all know that is a bunch of BS, and the real reason that people can get excited about Apple products is because they have a huge track record of delivering great, groundbreaking products that people love. That's also why Apple has a higher satisfaction rate than anybody else. People know what they're getting and they know what to expect.
post #16 of 102
By the same line of reasoning any smartphone becomes unusable.
Obviously software simply needs a size setting and why we can still get by with small smartphones.

I wonder how those using Opera Mobile or Firefox find it.
post #17 of 102
Just buy and iPad for crying out loud cheap skates! Lol
post #18 of 102
Eh. My wife likes hers well enough, but I suppose people without an Amazon Prime account might find it less useful. I don't have the same control problems others in this forum have had with it, but I'd never ditch it in favor of my Transformer. 8 gigs isn't enough for me, and the lack of expandable memory is the same dealbreaker on the Fire as it is on the iPad.

Kinda curious how so many of you seem threatened by a cheaper alternative to the iPad, that isn't really designed to compete with the iPad. If Amazon is able to pick up business from folks who consider the iPad out of their budgets anyway, what do any of you care?
post #19 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by aBeliefSystem View Post

By the same line of reasoning any smartphone becomes unusable

Good point. Interesting how the very same size kings and queens that are hating on the Fire's 7 inches were the very same proclaiming that 3.5 inches was more than enough back in August.
post #20 of 102
Sales of Kindle fire > review from a "expert" via Daring Fireball. The Kindle Fire has a limited set of use cases. It is reasonable for the pricing and the functionality. No point in comparing it with iPad.
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Most of us employ the Internet not to seek the best information, but rather to select information that confirms our prejudices. - Nicholas D. Kristof
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post #21 of 102
White Nexus 7 8GB
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post #22 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

It's a toy! When people buy a 200 dollar electronic toy and expect it to perform like a iPad they are bound to get upset.

Where's your Kindle Fire? Oh I think it's in my desk. How do you like it? Um it's OK.

I keep waiting for Mattel to come out with a tablet for kids, they'd be in good company with the other toys!
Enjoying the new Mac Pro ... it's smokin'
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini.
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Enjoying the new Mac Pro ... it's smokin'
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini.
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post #23 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post

Good point. Interesting how the very same size kings and queens that are hating on the Fire's 7 inches were the very same proclaiming that 3.5 inches was more than enough back in August.

I don't know as I haven't used a 7 inch iPad knock off but perhaps Apple make an iPhone with a far higher precission UI than these cheap 7 inch tablet makers do. Thus the accuracy of the touch interface maybe be far superior on an iPhone than these things.
Enjoying the new Mac Pro ... it's smokin'
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini.
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Enjoying the new Mac Pro ... it's smokin'
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini.
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post #24 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by talksense101 View Post

Sales of Kindle fire > review from a "expert" via Daring Fireball. The Kindle Fire has a limited set of use cases. It is reasonable for the pricing and the functionality. No point in comparing it with iPad.

Sales mean nothing. Sales does not necessarily mean that a product is good. And nobody knows the sales figures, since Amazon hasn't released any. And since they're selling at a loss, initially, the more they sell, the more money they're losing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by talksense101 View Post

No point in comparing it with iPad.

Tell that to Amazon, who happens to mention the iPad numerous times on their Kindle Fire sales page.

So they're allowed to mention the iPad, but here on an Apple site, nobody else is allowed to compare the two?

Every tablet that gets released is going to be compared to the iPad, whether people like it or not, as none of them would have ever existed if it were not for the iPad to begin with.
post #25 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by talksense101 View Post

Sales of Kindle fire > review from a "expert" via Daring Fireball. The Kindle Fire has a limited set of use cases. It is reasonable for the pricing and the functionality. No point in comparing it with iPad.

In every single use case, general usability of the device will be a factor. And it blows.

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post #26 of 102
Its a perfect example of "you get what you pay for". In this case you get a re-purposed RIM Playbook.
post #27 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

Yep, there's always something new on the horizon that the Fandroids have to look forward to.

"Just wait until Honeycomb comes out, that will fix those issues!"

Then that quickly turned into "Just wait until Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, that will fix those issues!"

By the time Android gets to "Z", the shit will still suck.

Dude, just wait until "Just Another Burger" comes out. You'll see, THAT will fix those issues.
post #28 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

Yep, there's always something new on the horizon that the Fandroids have to look forward to.

"Just wait until Honeycomb comes out, that will fix those issues!"

Then that quickly turned into "Just wait until Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, that will fix those issues!"

By the time Android gets to "Z", the shit will still suck.

The macalope has a very good quote

"Which, at the rate were going, should be some time after squid make their way onto land and evolve into vicious arboreal predators.
"
English is not my native language so feel free to correct me.
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English is not my native language so feel free to correct me.
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post #29 of 102
Bought one two weeks ago.
Used it once.
Difficult to navigate and use the web
Slow response time
Back to Amazon it went, and I'll stick to my ipad2, which, even tho three times more expensive, is worth every can't more. It's, by comparison, a pleasure to use.
My regular Kindle is also great for reading. The Fire, tho, is a bust IMHO.
post #30 of 102
This Nielsen Norman's Kindle Fire study was a "small" study - with only four users. One complaint was "The Fire is a heavy object. It's unpleasant to hold for extended periods of time. Unless you have forearm muscles like Popeye."
post #31 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by ErosLWS View Post

I'll admit, the usability blows, but I think people are trying to make this out to be more than what it is. It's more of a PMP than a tablet.

Besides the fact that this has nothing to do with Apple (until we see some deformed iPod 7", highly unlikely), the study itself is qualitative and N=4. It's garbage. I can do a qualitative N=4 study on the Macbook Pro and find that it has terrible usability and low ratings, despite the fact that it's arguably the best laptop out there.

I think they know how to run small qualitative studies and not report dubious information. Nielsen essentially wrote the book on usability studies.

The study shows what it shows within the clearly delineated constraints. It's not garbage. There are many ways for Amazon to improve their product. Tog also had a piece on usability design failures for iOS.

The lack of hardware buttons to save a few more cents is going to come back and bite them in the ass. Also, even as a glorified PMP the thing has to be able to surf the web effectively. This is now a common expectation given that phones can do a good job with mobile sites.
post #32 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post

Good point. Interesting how the very same size kings and queens that are hating on the Fire's 7 inches were the very same proclaiming that 3.5 inches was more than enough back in August.

You two should actually read the article. The statement was on mobile sites the 7" form factor was very nice. On FULL sites it didn't work very well.

Do you surf using full sites on your phone? I don't even on the iPhone unless I don't need to do more than click a link or two. Even then there's a lot of pinch zooming going on. If there's any login or forms entry to do I let it default to the mobile version.

Even just for content consumption, well designed mobile sites largely work better than full sites.
post #33 of 102
I messed around with the fire at Staples( insert the sounds of crickets) and the user experience is trash just like the Galaxy tab. Once you're on the iPad all hell breaks loose. The ability to go from online to buying music to movies and books is as smooth a freaking silk sheets. Damn.
post #34 of 102
4 people! As a study it is pretty much useless.

I have never tried the Kindle Fire and probably never will (give me a real, open android device), but I question the thinking behind this study.

PS On the Amazon site about 33% of people gave the device a three or below. About 15% gave it a one. As Amazon are probably scared of the backlash of removing a negative post, this may be a better indication.
post #35 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

I saw videos of people using them when it was first released. It operated like pure garbage and the usability was extremely poor, with the interface being very non responsive and inaccurate.

I don't care if it costs ten dollars. If something is bad, then it's bad, regardless of how little it costs. It also doesn't matter how many they may happen to sell. That is not going to magically transform garbage into something good. Garbage X 3 million is 3 million pieces of garbage.

People who say that they like it, clearly have very low technical standards, as to what they expect from their devices.

Why do you even bother commenting on stuff? It's always the same: "[insert non-Apple product here] sucks!" Thanks for that great insight...never mind that you've never actually used most of these products. Do Apple fans have to act like such douches?
post #36 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by caliminius View Post

Why do you even bother commenting on stuff? It's always the same: "[insert non-Apple product here] sucks!" Thanks for that great insight...never mind that you've never actually used most of these products. Do Apple fans have to act like such douches?

I provide great analysis, informative criticism and I even know a thing or two about the Kindle Fire that I bet that most people who own one doesn't even know - It's dual touch only, as opposed to 11 touch on the iPad. People would never know that from just reading the description of the Kindle Fire on Amazon. Luckily, technically minded people like me are around to set the facts straight.
post #37 of 102
The Kindle Fire is a budget device that offers a budget experience.
post #38 of 102
I'm rolling out of my chair over here. Perhaps for the faithful here at AI, a "4 man study", of which I'm sure at least 3 are i-Fans, is scientific and meaningful. For the rest of the world with any type of objective reasoning ability, this is just another run of the mill hate piece. I haven't seen or touched a Kindle Fire in person, but the bias of the pro-Apple reviewers is beyond blatant. With nearly 4000 reviews and an average of 4 stars on Amazon, I can't do much more than laugh at anyone who claims the thing is 'junk'
post #39 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neo42 View Post

With nearly 4000 reviews and an average of 4 stars on Amazon, I can't do much more than laugh at anyone who claims the thing is 'junk'

Justin Bieber has 4.5 stars on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Justin-Bieber-...3177775&sr=1-3

As for the Kindle Fire, out of 3,970 reviews, 869 are two stars and below, that's about 22% of all reviews. 523 reviews are rock bottom, 1 star. That's a lot of unsatisfied people. I'm assuming that most of those people are returning theirs. That's a pretty big return rate.

As for the 5 star reviews, basic human psychology explains those. People will go through all sorts of mental gymnastics and self rationalizing to convince themselves that they made a good purchase.
post #40 of 102
The Kindle Fire isn't the fastest tablet. That being said, I don't have nearly the amount of problems that the author of this article has. I'm able to read books, surf the web, and play quite a few games. Is it all perfect? No. Has any mobile device really been perfect? No. It is pretty usable, and sometimes I think we, as a group, just like to complain.

I wouldn't like this to be my only tablet. It isn't the fastest thing in the world. The lack of the Google ecosystem, means I don't get the cooler Reader, Docs, and Calendar apps. As a reference device when coding, or something to slip in a jacket pocket, or something to read while laying in bed, this device is way more than adequate.
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