So far F/F are mostly impressed with the iPad. It’s what we had expected but were not prepared for the actual feel of the thing. Everyone who has said you need to experience it to understand it is spot on. I think it’s mostly because we are so used to clicking around with a mouse and that way of interacting that until you touch and play with a touch device of this scale with the content you are used to clicking through with a mouse, you don’t quite know how big the difference is.
However we will go into what we think about the device so far in some depth in another post – here we want to look at some general observations about content and specifically eMags like Time, GQ and Popular Science.
In short the big thing we noted very early on is there are a few commonalities in usability and interaction like left right finger scrolling to move through articles at a first page and ad level and then vertical (top to bottom) scrolling to read through the actual article. This seems to have been adopted widely and for all of us is familiar from the early Wire videos we saw. However beyond this things get a little messy in that, each mag has it’s own take on deeper interactions – like scrubbing through thumbnails, launching embedded media or launching to a website.
This is interesting for the user as switching from eMag to eMag or between eReaders for your eBooks and then back again involves learning and remembering a number of subtle interaction models for each title or platform. This is a major difference between real print titles and their eVersions. In print we pretty much get to read from front to back or from back to front, a page is a page it’s there in front of us to read or scan.
Now things have got a whole lot more interesting in terms of content layers, relating embedded media and creating a very immersive experience, but they have also got more complicated – how to interact with each and everyone of these experience has it’s own unique twists.
Beyond the interaction itself there is another area of usability that is already creating problems – the design elements themselves. In our experiences so far most titles we have tried have used graphic devices from their print cousins that become misleading in the eVersion. Certain shapes and devices can give the user the impression they are buttons. Round shapes, outlines with rounded corners even some ratings devices have lulled us into tapping with the finger thinking we will see more content, an overlay or another image. Obviously you learn quickly but at the moment we only have hand full of eMags to compare what when we have access to the whole newsstand – again there aren’t really shared conventions for this stuff – in print this has never been an issue, you just look decipher and consume you don’t interact.
Much of this can be explained by the main difference in interaction between our touch devices and our computers – the lack of a rollover or mouse overstate, it’s a touch device not a hover device, so we don’t get intermediate feedback, we can’t test for interaction once we touch the device will do something on release or it won’t, but you don’t really wave your finger around over things like you do the mouse. It’s not say you can’t but it doesn’t feel intuitive to do this. (note this has in the past day been highlighted as one very valid reason why Flash and this device aren’t compatible at this stage – most Flash video players have playback controls that are revealed on hover, these would just not be there if browsing this content on an iPhone OS device – the user would have the impression it was broken. On this count alone Apples decision makes a lot of sense*.)
But in summary it is still early days, some content apps feels they may have been a little rushed to market, but on the whole it’s a really exciting way to consume content we are used to in print – it certainly questions wether a magazine needs a traditional website anymore – could the not just embed the UGC, and extended news content into these new eMags.
Also the opportunities for advertising are also very interesting and in the these early stages are clearly being missed – we haven’t seen anything yet that is engaging at a tactile level, just embedding a video or overlaying some web content is barely the beginning – even the iAd platform seems to rely on the idea of putting the old school micro-site into the ad rather than making the ad itself interesting in a way that is unique to the qualities of a touch device. More opinion on this to come.
Finally our biggest observation is how quickly this moves from a nice personal intimate entertainment device to something you pass around the group like you would a print mag, likewise when you are gaming it’s so easy to share, take turns, and it moves easily from my device to our device.
For anyone doubting that this is not just computing, well it isn’t this is a new device it’s not a smart phone and it’s not a computer it’s not even as Apple say ‘something in between’ it is so much more.
* read more here regarding on Flash on the iPad