From Print to web to app design

Flipboard iPad app
Flipboard iPad app

I’ve had the opportunity to move from print design to web design to app design.

Looking back over these very different mediums, each has a learning curve, each has very different thinking and best practice. But the hardest part is that going from one medium to another requires you to “forget” the thinking of the previous medium.

“Your must un-learn what you have learned” – Yoda

In print there are categories and indexes to organise your content, on the web you can slice and filter the content dynamically by combinations of categories and tags, with apps (on touchscreen devices) you have a new interaction model based on “direct manipulation”, where utility needs to be more focused and access to content needs to be flatter and more direct.

One app – one function.

In the web world, if you wanted to offer 5 different things you’d have 5 sections on your site, in the app model, it’s better to make five different apps and focus them clearly around one task, defined by an application definition statement. It’s not a hard rule, more a principle that will help to make a better, more straightforward app.

The magazine metaphor

The iPad has ignited a great deal of excitement and activity from the  news and magazine nedia, who are eager to find a new avenue for thier content in the face of years of  competition from the free web.

Certainly, apps like Flipboard have shown there is great potential in the magazine browsing metaphor for consuming any kind of content, in fact trad publishers are signing up to delver their content through Flipboard (Lonely Planet Mag, Washington Post).

The Ecomonist iPad app
The Ecomonist iPad app

The challenge for these companies is to make the most of this potential without reverting to print thinking when it comes to content structure. The periodic “issue” may make sense and feel comfortable commercially, but seem anachronistic on an iPad constantly wired to the web. Wired and The Economist deliver periodically, despite the fact their websites have “live” content.

It’s a bit of a downer to open an app to find there’ll be nothing new for another week or month. Just like discovering just missed your favourite TV show only to find they don’t do “on demand” and have to wait for a scheduled repeat. Old skool.