Great user interfaces aren’t just a matter of taste

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I pulled the following from a Crain’s Chicago Business article about the many bold moves the Sun-Times is making here. While I think it’s great to challenge the Trib, there was one line that stuck out at me.

With regard to his digital strategy, Mr. Ferro said he’s trying to create a “great user interface” for a tablet application that is in the works. On that front, he praised the example set by the New York Post tablet application.

Maybe what he meant to say was their app is consistent with their brand. Like the New York Post newspaper, their app is sloppy, rude, and just slapped together, but it’s not a great user interface. The thing that bothers me, is that someone in a leadership position is saying the user interface (a very specific term) is an important part of their digital strategy, then cites one of the worst possible examples of a tablet experience.

Has anyone else seen the New York Post iPad app?! It’s a hot mess express. It doesn’t follow any of the conventions of most iPad apps. Not that it needs to, there are plenty of great iPad experiences that don’t. The NYPost app, on the other hand, looks like a mistake. It’s like someone tried to Xerox the entire newspaper onto an 8.5 x 11 sheet at the Kinkos color copy sale.

Look at this mess

You literally get an experience that leaves stories cut off on the edge.

I’m may be splitting hairs when I say he should have used a term other than “user interface”. However, it’s not uncommon for someone higher up the food chain to insert their opinion on the UI as if it were just a matter of taste.

By now, every exec has read the Steve Jobs bio, so they get the user interface matters. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily understand how it actually happens. So the lesson here is don’t let all your hard work and critical thinking get pissed away because someone thinks it’s subjective. Spend the time comparing and contrasting the dos and the don’ts. Show your work. Don’t just build something and say, “here it is, what do you think?”

Take the time to explain why it’s important, don’t assume they’ll know.

via Sun-Times owner: ‘We’re not buying the Trib’ – Consumer News – Crain’s Chicago Business.

Why Publishers Don’t Like Apps

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via Why Publishers Don’t Like Apps – Technology Review.

They allowed themselves to be convinced that producing editorial content for the apps and developing the apps themselves would be simple.

We have several clients in the publishing industry and see first hand the pain they go through when it comes to developing apps.

According to a study by Miratech, people prefer apps over mobile web. Even if that’s not totally true, another study estimate some 30% of US adults own an E-Reader / Tablet now. Even if publishers don’t love apps, it would appear their customers do. So they need to do something about it.

The problem is adding another format, like an app, to your workflow is non-trivial. Unfortunately, if I’m a customer, that’s not my problem. We see great user experiences coming from other companies, in some cases small and obscure, and wonder why these big corporate publishers can’t follow suit.

Publishers have to figure this stuff out and make some hard choices in order to survive. Hopefully, they’ll err on the side of a creating a better user experience and not on a form that is easier for them to deliver.