You, The iPhone App
What if Amazon Got it Wrong?

PopSci Genius Guide: Next Gen Magazine? Sort of.

Popsci I was all excited when I read this terrific article about Popular Science's venture into what they're calling "the next generation of digital magazines."  Then I checked out the product and was extremely disappointed.

Here are some of the article excerpts that got my attention:

And make no mistake -- this isn't your typical "interactive" digital magazine with an animation here or a video there.

PopSci has effectively demonstrated the ability to create a multilayered (emphasis mine), interactive experience for readers without overwhelming them.

Readers choose which aspects they want to activate and when.

Our goal was not to create a web site with the Genius Guide, and not to re-create Popular Science magazine with it...but to create a totally new product...that engages and enthralls the reader.

How much can I pay to get this outstanding product?  Sign me up!

OK, now take a look at the product the interview describes.  I found it to be ho-hum and pretty much what they say it's not (your typical interactive digital magazine with an animation here and a video there).  To be fair, I remember seeing a couple of animations but no videos.

I couldn't help think the PopSci Genius Guide was built by a team with a magazine mentality.  Why do they feel compelled to render the product using the virtual dimensions of a print magazine?  That results in so much wasted space, leaving my screen mostly blank when I'm flipping through it.  Why not think about the user experience and fully utilize the available surface area rather than limit yourself by forcing the product to look and feel like a print magazine on a computer screen?  Btw, if you follow this advice you wind up with something that looks more like a web page than a print magazine page, and that's OK!

Why does every "digital magazine" designer feel compelled to animate the page-turning process?!  Who cares?  That's not a critical element of the print magazine user experience that absolutely must be preserved in the digital product.

Also, while they're rethinking and better utilizing the available space on the computer screen, how about considering the small screen as well?  I'm talking specifically about the iPhone.  I looked and there's no Popular Science iPhone app.  Talk about a missed opportunity.

I recently signed up for a deeply discounted print subscription to Popular Science ($6 for 12 issues via Amazon) and I'm hooked.  If they offer me an iPhone app subscription at 99-cents/month I'll send them more money.  That's not much but it's a lot more than I'd be willing to pay for the current implementation of the PopSci Genius Guides.

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