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OpenTable has a brain. Does your product?

If you’ve never heard of OpenTable, I’m guessing you don’t live anywhere near a city. It’s the real-time online reservation system that lets you book a table without having to call the restaurant.

I dine out a lot and I tend to be the planner in my group of friends, so OpenTable and I know each other very well. It certainly isn’t the prettiest website, but it’s incredibly quick and easy to use, and that makes it one of my favorite tools.

Last month I was on my iPad and needed to make a reservation, so I pointed my browser to opentable.com. Take a look at what I got:

When OpenTable recognized that I was browsing on an iPad, I was automatically redirected to this page. “Hey, nice iPad!” got my attention, followed by a no-frills indication that OpenTable now has an iPad app available for download — with a one-click way of getting it. It also provides an optionto let me keep browsing in Safari, if that’s my preference.

I’m really impressed with this interstitial because it’s useful, utilitarian and to the point. It’s not some fancy, high-design, in your face marketing page with big graphics and buzzwords. It’s helpful, not showy. OpenTable’s product is so good, it doesn’t need to be.

The code required to see if someone is browsing on an iPad is trivial. It’s obvious. And yet so few companies are doing it as a way to redirect users to their apps. It’s as though one platform is completely unaware of the other. That’s a foolish way to build a business, let alone create an experience.

I hope to see more products embrace OpenTable’s smart approach.

Have you seen other examples of this? Please share in the comments, images welcome.

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  • http://www.gtrot.com Brittany

    Seamless web does this too!Check http://www.seamlessweb.com from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

    It’s helpful when they give you a choice. I’m always disappointed when sites push you into their general mobile sites. For example, I get the Forever21 emails, it will advertise $10 leggings (yes!) so I click through my mobile email I click on the link. Then it directs me to a general Forever21 site – I have to dig around to find those $10 leggings. So what was going to be a custom landing page just leads to digging. I think there are other websites, not just e-commerce that have this issue. Nowadays if you are sending a link via email or posting it on twitter, it should be fully functional in a mobile browser.

  • http://chrissutton.me Chris

    Totally agree that it’s a smart approach, and one that’s not done often enough.

    That said, I’ve been reluctant to use OpenTable after reading more about their business model. Here’s a restauranteur’s take: http://incanto.biz/2010/10/22/is-opentable-worth-it/

  • http://petekinser.com Pete

    Love OT. This stuck out to me …

    “It also provides an optionto let me keep browsing in Safari, if that’s my preference.”

    Amazing OT has figured this out but MobileMe still has not ….

    See:
    http://petekinser.com/blog/2010/11/27/but-its-not-my-ipad/

  • http://willsansbury.com Will Sansbury

    It’s a nice technique, but I’ve yet to see it implemented in a way that doesn’t become a constant annoyance for users who opt not to download the app.

    For some things that I do fairly infrequently, I prefer to just use the web app, even if there’s an iPad app available. In some cases, I prefer the web app because it’s just plain better than a half-baked, rushed-to-market iPad app.

    So, yeah… nice touch, but to really rock, it needs to let me dismiss it permanently (or use a less obtrusive mode, like an overlay on the web app that can be dismissed without requiring a page refresh) so that I don’t come to loathe it and the brand behind it.

  • http://blog.jwegener.com Jwegener

    I like this too. Yelp.com does something similar when visiting from an iphone. But I really wish they’d take it one step further, rather than just offering you to download the app.

    If you land on a yelp listing for a particular restaurant it should offer to open the page IN THE APP. The yelp mobile app experience is much richer than the mobile web, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t call an url handler to open directly to that page.

    That way, they could serve the category of users that already have the app installed but landed on it through a website or email link.