The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Web Browsing on Mobile Phones – Characteristics of User Experience

Virpi Roto

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to be presented with due permission of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for public examination and debate in Auditorium T1 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 8th of December, 2006, at 12 noon.

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Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-22-8469-3)


The increasing importance of the web in people's daily life calls for device-independent access to existing web sites. More than two billion people have a mobile phone today, and for many of them, a mobile phone may be the only way to connect to the web. There is an order for full web access on mobile phones, but it faces several challenges and the user experience is often poor.

This dissertation has its focus in the area of human-computer interaction and user experience research. The overall goal of the research has been to improve the end user experience when browsing the web with a mobile phone. Previous research has identified that the user's internal state, context, and system affect the user experience, but product development needs a more concrete and comprehensive list of attributes. To understand the user experience building blocks in the case of mobile browsing, we ran several usability studies with mobile web browsers in both a laboratory and a mobile context. We also conducted 35 contextual inquiry interviews in Finland, United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The studies revealed that mobile browsing user experience is affected by the user's state, context, mobile device, browser application, network infrastructure, and web sites. Identifying these characteristics composes the main contribution of this dissertation.

The mobile browser development activity at Nokia serves as a case study, in which we have considered the identified attributes and aimed to create a browser that fits well into the mobile context. Our field study results and early feedback from the market have been encouraging, which shows that taking the user experience characteristics into account helps creating positive user experiences.

Finally, this dissertation adduces topics for future user experience research by discussing the difference between user experience and experience in general, the effects that pricing has on the user experience, and the role of a user's expectations in evaluating the user experience.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 8 publications:

  1. Kaikkonen, A., Roto, V., 2003, Navigating in a Mobile XHTML Application. Proceedings of Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference (CHI 2003), Fort Lauderdale, USA, pp. 329-336.
  2. Roto, V., Kaikkonen, A., 2003, Acceptable Download Times in the Mobile Internet. In Stephanidis, C. (ed.): Universal Access in HCI. Proceedings of HCI International 2003, Crete, Greece, volume 4, pp. 1467-1471.
  3. Roto, V., Kaikkonen, A., 2003, Perception of Narrow Web Pages on a Mobile Phone. Proceedings of the 19th International Symposium on Human Factors in Telecommunication (HFT 2003), Berlin, Germany, pp. 205-212.
  4. Roto, V., Oulasvirta, A., 2005, Need for Non-Visual Feedback with Long Response Times in Mobile HCI. Proceedings of the 14th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW 2005), Chiba, Japan, pp. 775-781.
  5. Roto, V., Laakso, K., 2005, Mobile Guides for Locating Network Hotspots. Workshop on HCI in Mobile Guides, in conjunction with MobileHCI 2005 Conference, Salzburg, Austria, 5 pages.
  6. Roto, V., 2006, Search on Mobile Phones. In Vaughan, M., Resnick, M. (eds): Perspectives issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST): Best Practices and Future Visions of Search User Interfaces, volume 57, number 6, pp. 834-837.
  7. Roto, V., Popescu, A., Koivisto, A., Vartiainen, E., 2006, Minimap – a Web Page Visualization Method for Mobile Phones. Proceedings of Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference (CHI 2006), Montreal, Canada, pp. 35-44.
  8. Roto, V., Geisler, R., Kaikkonen, A., Popescu, A., Vartiainen, E., 2006, Data Traffic Costs and Mobile Browsing User Experience. MobEA IV Workshop on Empowering the Mobile Web, in conjunction with WWW 2006 Conference, 6 pages.

Keywords: mobile internet, user experience, building blocks of user experience, user studies, mobile phone

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© 2006 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26