Media Magazine

TheiPadLab: the Essentials of Directions

Posted on the 01 April 2011 by Themarioblog @garciainteract

TAKEAWAY: Perhaps the most important element of creating a news iPad app is the careful planning of “directions”—-how the user can get from Point A to Point Z with other points in between in as painless a manner as possible. This is what today’s iPad Lab is all about

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Without a doubt, one of the most important initial steps when developing a news iPad app is to design the “directions” that will tell users easily how to go from one part of the app to the next.  Unlike the linear nature of a printed newspaper or magazine, where we can flip easily thru the pages, in tablet reading, each screen represents its own unit, and we may not necessarily know what comes next or what we have left behind, or skipped over.

It is because of this that directions are extremely important.  The impatient reader, especially all those digital natives that become a larger segment of our audience, wants to move at the touch of the screen. Let’s say I am now in the middle of a cultural section article, which I have finished or decide to abandon to read top news, I should be able to, without hesitation, tap the right area of the screen to get there.

We as designers have an obligation to provide that direction in a visual and tactile manner, effortlessly for the user.  Nothing can be more frustrating for an app user that a finger that taps into limbo. Tap, tap, and the third tap with no results you have a frustrated user, lost in the midst of your app.

This Lab today addresses directions and shows samples of those who do it well.

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Sections, top news directions (above)

At its most basic, the screen will show you how to access all sections of your newspaper and magazine, and, in the case of newspapers, how to get to the Top News section at anytime during your journey thru the app.
Where you place the directions is less important than getting them designed and built into the screen. They may pop from the top bar or from the bottom; right or left. Users get familiarized with directions and expect to find them in the same place all the time.

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Users want to share

One of the most popular features of apps is offering the ability for the user to share the information with others, either thru email, Facebook, Twitter, or to save for future reference. It is important to make the share direction easy to find.

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Multi media directions

We all enjoy knowing what photo galleries, videos or other multimedia offerings are in today’s app.  Display those, preferably in carrousel style, so that I can see miniatures of the photos I may wish to see more of.
Users absolutely enjoy photo galleries and videos, with more preference for the photos than the videos. No surprise here.

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At The New York Times

The Times app allows user to access the sections pop up window anytime. Easy to use. Easy to find.  Basic but essentially functional.

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The Reuters app

The sandwich approach to easy to follow directions, with three layers: Top News, Top News Video, Top US News.  Slide to the right and find the story you wish to read.

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NPR Radio app

One of my favorites, master of simplicity in directions, the NPR Radio app excels in its ability to have included all of its great content into three major baskets of information: news, arts & life, music. As simple as that: three choices, carrousel navigator, slide to the right, click and go, and always a pop up window when you call it to guide you to other areas of the app.  Many newspaper apps can learn from the simplicity that NPR shows here.

Of interest today

-How The Daily Is Doing So Far*: 500k Downloads, 75k Users
- UK: News Corp’s UK Newspapers Benefiting from New Digital Products
- UK: New role for James Murdoch

- UK: Isle of Man Examiner goes tabloid after 131 years
- USA: The paidContent 50: The Most Successful Digital Media Companies In The U.S.
- USA: Mobile tops newspapers’ 2011 wish lists

TheMarioBlog post #743

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