So Wired are giving away the May issue of their iPad edition for free, and I finally have an iPad. I immediately downloaded it – well, “immediately” is a bit of a stretch; it was 380MB and took 20 minutes to download.
I’ve had a number of requests on twitter that I review this app, so I wrote the following post for an audience in digital publishing. It is fairly nit-picky, and the average user might not notice these details or even care. But I ‘d still like to know what you think.
There are quite a few lessons to be learned from this app, and I don’t think I can find them all in a single issue.
First, it’s a huge file and you can’t open it until it’s fully downloaded. (In comparison, the GQ iPhone app and others lets you open after a partial download.) Also, you can’t read an issue while a different one is being downloaded and you cannot leave the app (it stops the download). There’s this new invention called multi-tasking; I wonder if Wired have heard of it?
There’s no way to clearly tell on the table of contents (TOC) which articles have enhanced content, which would have been nice. Well, the TOC does tell you this with tiny icons (too subtle); it’s just that some of them are wrong. For example, one article on the space race doesn’t have enhanced content; the unrelated sidebar does. Also, some of the enhanced content isn’t worth listing (one example is a simple animated gif).
I think it would be better to have a separate TOC for the enhanced content alone. What if I want to watch the best parts over and over again? Also, why not another TOC for sidebars?
Speaking of the TOC, I noticed that there is a second one, and it’s not working quite the best way. Tap the screen to bring up the menu, and then click on the icon in the upper right. You’ll see each article or advert as one entry in a row. The multi-page articles will look like columns. The problem with this TOC is that you can’t scroll up and down the multi-page articles. I’d think this would be an obvious feature.
Moving on to reading, you can’t make the text larger nor can you zoom images. This second one is particularly frustrating because a number of the sidebars are made up of several images, not one. It would be nice to zoom in so a single image fills the screen. You also cannot bookmark, clip, highlight, or in any way annotate the text.
What’s worse than the lack of annotation is that there’s no way for you to share most of the content (even though at least 2 articles had a tweet/Facebook/email button). I don’t usually want to share but I do appreciate the promotional value of being able to tweet a snippet.
While I’m on it, it would also be nice to track articles I’ve bookmarked, tweeted, favorited, or whatever. That way I can quickly flip to an article and hand someone my iPad.
Speaking of tweets, there’s a single article page with a collection of tweets from about 2 dozen people. Unfortunately, you can see the names as a list but not click on them. All you can do is click on the next button until you get to the one you want (I just wanted to see what Steve Martin tweeted). BTW, here’s a spot where I’d really really really like to be able to tweet a snippet. The absence is now officially laughable (there’s a tweet/facebook/email button on the previous page, LOL).
Hardly any of the links or email addresses found in the ads are active. I think all ads should link to appropriate websites (a “click here” button). What’s most irritating is that this ability is clearly already possible in the app. I found several places where an email or web link was live. I wonder if some ads were crippled because the advertiser didn’t pay more?
And that, folks, is what I see when I use an app. I don’t always put energy into ripping someone apart like this but I do notice these details.
P.S. An early draft of this review included a diatribe against what I though was an ad that locked me to a particular page. It turns out I was wrong. The ad in question was merely poorly designed and was not intended to be obnoxious. The problem with the ad was that it was a full page “where’s waldo” type game with the goal of finding the advertiser’s cars. If you try to swipe the page the ad assumes you are looking for the cars, not trying to leave. It was exceedingly irritating. IMO, this poorly conceived ad is nearly as bad as the deliberate lock-in.