Today I opened my Guardian iPad edition and I saw a message telling me that my free period is ending soon. That’s fine, in fact that’s good – I love the Guardian and want it to continue producing quality journalism in all formats… But that’s not what I’ve come to write about. Every single little thing you see in an app (or in print for that matter) had to be designed, and in the case of the notice saying “you have 4 days left of our free period” it was me who decided what colour the pixels should be and what should happen when you tap or swipe them.
Since Steve Jobs died on 5 October this year there has been an outpouring of tributes from President Obama’s amazing statement — to users of iPhones, MacBooks and iPods cards, post-it notes and bitten apples left as makeshift shrines outside Apple stores.
I have personally felt a deep sadness, the passing of a man who has meant a lot to me for many years — as my use of computers grew, and with it an interest in how digitisation could be used for content in so many areas of life. Steve as the central character in his unfolding story — one man’s drive to create great things that people love to use (accelerated by his knowledge of his shortened life) — has acted as a distant mentor at times when I’ve needed inspiration to change direction and lift my head a little higher.
One example of what he did that is less to do with the products, but the methods he developed for organising great people in a way that brought out
Everywhere I look I see newspapers bringing out tablet apps which reflect the daily printed product. This is true in every country and every type of news organisation. the visions that many had of being able to grab hold of the news have not quite yet come to pass.
Looking at the terrain, this is quite understandable – if a little worrying. News media organisations hold an unusual place in the developer community because unlike in most other industries there is a growing urgency to find a way to replace income lost to newer internet spawned ventures. It is clear that there needs to be a solution to the problem of falling revenue from advertising, both display and classified and the drive towards getting breaking news from elsewhere via Google.
This problem drives editors and other senior executives worldwide to seek ways to get the whole print edition, including all the advertising, into a package which on the one hand won’t irreparably damage their print product, but on the other will allow the beginnings of exploration into what is possible
Just as the ipad was launched there was a flurry of app creation, and there seem to be another stream of news apps coming out this year. There have been no great breakthrough in news apps in my opinion, nothing which answers the perceived need for a daily news app. Whether that need exists is a moot point, though is is clear that most news organisations are driven to build core news apps to satisfy the nagging worry that one day they will have to turn off the presses. More on that in another post.
What is also emerging is a first stage of new technical development for iOS, an inevitable stage in the evolution of a platform which has offered huge promise, and with which some deficiencies which have become clearer through use.
The first Guardian news app for iPhone was well received and sold well. Designing a new version probably have felt more daunting than it did… and while I am very pleased with what we have released, there are always lessons to learn: about how features often turn out to me more complex and time consuming than you imagine. Our brief: to bring readers some great new features, Bring more of the Attention Data work to the
I’ve read articles lately about how readerships of ipad magazines has dropped off to a low level. This does not surprise me, because although there have been some impressive examples to “ooh and ahh” at, not much has made me want to come back the following months, weeks or days.
Many of the apps I have seen so far try very hard to create exciting visual experiences, and to adopt the graphic design language of print – or go the other way, putting too much multimedia in the way of reading. Here are some of the lessons I have learned while trying to design for great user experience on the iPad (and iphone for that matter), and from the apps I’ve tried. These are not numbered hierarchically, it’s just how they fell…
One thing which to me is synonymous with flying long distance is the back-of-the-seat screens, with their low resolution and strange implementation of GPS: a map of the world on which your huge plane flies and by which you can position yourself with seemingly random cities which appear with no apparent logic. Sometimes this view changes from a vertical map view to one on which you can see the horizon, and there are other screens which tell you the altitude, distance to destination, from departure and time of arrival. It doesn’t tell you the present time but it does tell you your cruising speed. It also swaps randomly between metric and imperial measures. it can’t fit all this
There was not much talk about type leading or grids at WWDC 2010 though the role of design was invoked many times. Neither of these things should be surprising at an event focused on developers of apps for iPad and iPhone, who are largely more focused on the realization of a vision and the writing of code to achieve that rather than the finer points of detail of what makes up the user’s visual and interface experience of apps.
Design is a key component in the app creation process though, and Apple acknowledges this in the human interface guidelines it provides for developers. At WWDC the emphasis on good design as integral to the making of great apps, and the relative scarcity of good UI designers was reflected in the long lines to book for the UI labs, where developers could bring
Someone tweeted this post’s headline as an alternative title during the “International Symposium for Online Journalism“, which I attended in Austin a week ago. The tweet captures it’s essence. This is a time of fear and hope from news organisations as ad revenue continues to drop and new streams don’t rise to fill the black hole. I was kindly invited to speak by Rosental Alves, who has run this conference for the last ten years
As part of my talk I had decided to touch on the origins of writing and reading as a way of discussing whether the “newspaper look” of the first IPad news apps are the best form.
Jeremy Leslie of Magculture has written one of the more interesting reviews of the ipad and existing apps on his blog. His thoughts touch on some of the key issues for app designers and newspaper and magazine publishers. It is good to see that we are in agreement on this, particularly when I am in the midst of grappling with just these issues on my first bit of ipad design:
…simple is best. I admit simple is my natural default, but this brief play on the machine makes me wonder how compelling the busier Apps like Popular Machanics or Wired Apps will be.