TAKEAWAY: It was Lesson 16 of 17 in my presentation at the WoodWing Xperience conference in Amsterdam yesterday, but one that resonated with several members of the audience. Here I share my thoughts on the fantasy that is dreaming of a 5.0 version, the day when those planning and designing news apps no longer attach themselves to the “newspaper look” idea.
Opening title for Lesson 16 during my WoodWing Xperience presentation in Amsterdam
Screens from Joe Zeff’s The Final Hours of Portal 2 app
My rough drafts for how The Final Hours ideas would play in a news app
It was at the end of my presentation about 17 Lessons We Have Learned Creating News Appsthat I allowed myself to engage in some type of fantasy of how I see the conceptualization of newspaper iPad apps developing in the years ahead (or it months?).
Why The Final Hours of Portal 2?
Well, to me, it is the case study of how to take storytelling to the next level, which is, by the way, what news apps ARE all about.
I had the pleasure of having dinner with Joe Zeff in Amsterdam last night and I took the opportunity to ask him about how The Final Hours was conceived, the original brief and how he tackled the project.
“Well, originally this was going to be a sort of mini app, a single story, maybe 7 or 8 pages, that was it,” Joe said. “But, as I read the text I began to examine the many possibilities that existed here, the possible pop ups about the game which is the central theme of the story, and we went from there.”
Obviously, it helped that this was not intended to be a newspaper or a magazine app, with all the limitations and legacy baggage that those usually entail.
It is all about storytelling
As I mentioned to Joe, I have dissected his app, a sort of autopsy of it all and why it works so well. At the end, my conclusion is that this is what news apps should do:
Use storytelling as a central theme that ties it all together.
Treat the app as a mini documentary, where several genres can be explored, as Joe does here: the long narrative (there is plenty to read, and often in an uninterrupted fashion, in The Final Hours), the short mini stories (they pop up usually in boxes, a good visual differentiator that the designers have created to set those whispers of a story aside from the main thread of the narrative), the variety of tempos (some “chapters” open with a flat photo image, others are animated, surprises abound and the user is never bored, because the app never falls into expected visual motifs).
The intuitive navigator: as Joe explains it to me, he and his team discussed the possibility of having both scroll down and swiping movements, but Joe says he insisted that this should be a “swipe only” navigation tool, giving it the more book-like approach. It works.
So, with Joe’s permission, I have done a simple exercise of trying to take the style of his The Final Hours app and applying some of the visual furniture that is necessary when creating news apps, but allowing myself to think beyond a landing page with four columns, headlines and type.
The time to replicate a miniature newspaper page on an iPad screen has come and gone.
We need to move on to a design mode that takes the brand (logo) enhance it and present it in the new platform, but then move on to center on storytelling, both visually and textually, that emphasizes hierarchy, visual seduction, multi media with pop ups and the creation of a varied symphony where one reads long, one reads short, the finger taps and encounters surprises and, at the end, storytelling has ruled the day without the limiting baggage of trying to recreate a flat, printed product in the more visually generous platform of the tablet.
The time for the 5.0 news app is now.