The mobile site is optimised only for basic WAP phones. There is no special treatment for smartphones or touch phones, which can use the same basic phone interface. I think it's a good strategy to test the waters and see where the usage is coming from, before investing more into product development.
Visit www.merucabs.com from your mobile browser or to automatically get served the mobile version of the site. The auto-detection worked for native Nokia browser as well as Opera Mini. (You can also visit www.merucabs.com/m from your desktop browser to view the mobile version). Here's what the first page looks like:
I had already registered on the desktop site , so, I logged in with my regular username & password. And it just worked! Here's what I got next:
After specifying the pickup date & time, you need to select the pickup location from the following screen. They give you an option to choose from five pickup locations you've used most frequently OR the option to specify a new one.
I tried specifying 'Phoenix mills' as a pickup location and was surprised they didn't have it! I then tried 'Lower Parel' and got this screen:
The funny thing is that the screen had two areas, Parel & Lower Parel, with both having only one sub-area each (the sub-areas were also called Parel & Lower Parel). Why ask the user to choose a sub-area in that case?
Also, notice, that if you didn't find your area you're expected click on "Go back and try again" to specify another area. Why not repeat the previous screen's text field to make recovering from an error easier?
Next, you specify the drop address. Again same problem, why force the user to go back and select a different pickup address if he didn't find it in the first try? Why not provide a small text-box on this screen itself to make retrying easier?
After a final booking review screen, you get to the confirmation screen:
Overall a pretty decent execution for a transaction focused mobile site. Good attention to detail with the form-field label aligment (should be vertical, not horizontal, for small screen devices).
- Works across all phones. Easy to use.
- Automatic browser detection implemented properly
- Authetication & user profile integrated with desktop site
- Best of all -- works as expected!
- Although not specific to the mobile site, the area database needs to be improved. On the desktop site you can correct yourself easily based on the auto-complete options. However, you don't have that luxury on a mobile site & you end up making an unexpected error. Also, I noticed that while the mobile site can recognize 'Bhakti Park' as a drop address and provide sensible options to select from, the desktop site only has 'Wadala' in the auto-complete drop down. Are the two interfaces using different area databases in the backend?
- Recovering from an error should be made easier for the user. Going back & forth between screens is not easy on a mobile site. So, "Go back and try again" should be replaced with a text box there itself.
- IMO, an attempt can be made to reduce the number of screens/steps a user has to navigate through to make a booking. For example, the following screens can all be combined into one: (a) enter pickup date & time, (b) enter pickup location, and (c) enter drop location. When the user submits the "integrated form", the subsequent screen should probably show only those sections where additional user input is required. For example, if the drop area cannot be identified uniquely based on the user's input the subsequent screen should show a form to confirm ONLY that. As long as all user input points to unique locations (pickup & drop), the user should have to press 'submit' only once to complete the booking. The number of fields aren't large enough to warrant a multi-step process.
 I'm pretty certain the maximum usage for the mobile site would be coming from people already registered on the desktop site. It would be interesting to see the stats though.