This week, News Corp announced that The Daily – the world’s first iPad-only newspaper – will shut down after less than 2 years and this has sparked a big debate on why The Daily failed and, more in general, why magazine apps suck.
Beyond the specific case, most existing iPad magazine apps suck because they offer essentially static content, they suck because they are far away from being interactive. Creating interactivity does not mean embedding some multimedia “bells and whistles”.
Most magazine apps suck because they are basically heavy PDFs with just some interactive elements. Almost all the solutions in the market are PDF-based systems such as Adobe’s DPS (clearly) or Mag+. The reasons are obvious. Publishing world is PDF-centric, people know how to use InDesign, and publishers want to reuse the knowledge and the investment done. So the solution is to create interactive PDF files with InDesign (adding some Flash-like interactivity on the top of the standard format) and to pay for a service that packages them into a bundle suited for distribution through iPad (or to pay for a commercial library for PDF-rendering). Understandable budget reasons (I, too, have developed an app of this category). But in this world a magazine app is a PDF reader.
Another digital publishing world is possible. And just to be clear, not a HTML5-based world where a magazine app is a browser. A magazine app makes sense if it’s a true native app, if it adds value to the user experience in terms of usability and functionality, takes advantage of the capabilities of the device, and makes a clean break from the incumbents.
Many have commented that The Magazine is the model to follow, and it is evident. Everything becomes immediately obvious when you see it. It is certainly the best example of how to distribute publications via Apple’s Newsstand, it is intuitive and immediate, but memorable editorials can not be the only lever to succeed in all situations. When I think of an iPad magazine app, I think of something like an iBook textbook, or an interactive children’s storybook, for magazine publishing. Truly interactive publications with diagrams that readers can rotate and pan-and-zoom, with photo galleries, videos, maps. A magazine should bring articles to life. Readers should be able to truly interact with the magazine, manipulate objects with their fingertips, search for content, highlight text. Magazines should take advantage of the fact that they are always connected to the web, for example with newspaper-specific modules that support polls, comments, photo sharing.
Science fiction? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple releases a sort of Newsstand Author. Or allowing the download of XIBs? Or what? Well. When I think of this, I don’t think ad hoc iOS apps, but a framework in which an issue is a bundle of resource files and metadata and the app is a sort of runtime environment that dynamically renders magazine issues delivered via Newsstand. XUL? XAML? Something like that. But there is no need to define a new protocol, the rendering instructions can be expressed in HTML (or its subset). In this way you can have truly native experiences, but also issues easy to produce, and portability. Time to start-up?
What do you think about it? Any opinion or feedback from you are welcome.
In the last month I worked on an important project for an important client about which I can’t write publicly for legal reasons (except to say that it has been quite a success in terms of downloads, rankings, users reviews on the one hand and client satisfaction on the other), but I want to talk about a lesson I learned about client work.
Product-based vs. service-based? No, I don’t want to deal with the pros and cons of working for clients vs. working for yourself. Anyone who’s done client work knows the inherent frustrations that come along with that and loves the creative freedom to design and develop projects his own way without any interference from client requirements.
When you work with clients, in any design decision you know that the main goal is to meet the client’s requirements rather than the needs of the end user. And you know that the time factor always win in the trade-off between quality and time. Quick-and-dirty? I guess you know what I mean.
I’ve often heard (and said) phrases like these: “if I had more time, I’d try to do this thing in a different way”, “If I did this thing on my own, I’d do it as I say”, ecc.
Well, I learned a valuable lesson during this project from a friend of mine: you can, you already have the power to do it! You can already apply your point of view.
There is no ideal condition to put your ideas into practice, each situation is the right one to do it!
You will always have to face some kind of constraints (even if you work for yourself), do not wait for the next project to follow this advice, do it now. It works!
Do not complain about your work situation, it falls to you to struggle free and use every available space to gain greater leeway.
“Words mean nothing. Action is the only thing. Doing. That’s the only thing.”. You will not be able to attract your manager by talking about how smart is your proposal, how modular is your approach, how elegant is your solution. Your manager will think only that it will take a long time, he’s attracted only by real things and your proposal is real only in your mind. Just do it! Make it real now!
Work hard behind the front line, surprise your manager and your clients! You just have to do it!
Stop complaining and work hard to change your job.
You can. You already have the power.
On October 20, Apple announced the dates and cities for its iOS 5 Tech Talk World Tour 2011, giving developers from around the world the opportunity to speak with and learn from Apple’s own engineers in nine cities on three continents. The nine cities include Berlin, London, Rome, Beijing, Seoul, São Paulo, New York City, Seattle, and Austin. iOS Developer Program members only and limited to those who got a confirmation from Apple.
Thanks Steve for teaching us…
- …the difference between ‘good enough’ and better
- …that people are at the centre of technology
- …to think first about what is desirable to users and then to consider what’s possible with technology
- …to focus on what truly matters and to keep it simple
- …we can’t connect the dots forward, only backward
- …the difference between a leader and a follower
- …to believe in ourselves and push our life forward
- …to think that we can change the world
- …that “innovation is not about saying yes to everything, it’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features”
- …that design is not just “how it looks like and feels like, design is how it works”
- …not to waste our time living someone else’s life
- …the importance of quality and attention to detail
- …that our imagination can become real through passion and determination
- …to “keep looking, don’t settle”
- …that compromise is a choice, not a requirement
- …to see things differently
We’ll miss you.