Joe Pemberton

The Wired Magazine Tablet App

A lot of Wired’s premises are spot on, regarding the trends and the emerging ways users will consume “print-centric” media on digital devices. The notion of print design as storytelling is also compelling, and one reason why print still feels manicured and curated, versus many online publishing outlets where content is merely poured into a content block. Our friends at Adobe should be congratulated for the richness of the Wired tablet UI. Like the New York Times Reader app (another of Adobe’s collaborations), it succeeds at considering content in the post-browser internet (or, if you prefer, the splinternet).

I’m sure a major consideration in this Wired/Adobe solution is the print-centric nature of magazine design. Layouts appear to be adapted from print and ported to the digital screen, which is compelling for now. Where this model succeeds is that it’s much more compelling than pouring content into a “page” rendered by a browser, and may be precisely why readers still want to engage with a publication where each story is curated and designed.

Countering the criticisms

In casual discussions here at Punchcut, the chief criticism is that the UI still relies on a persistent overlay. The reader steps out of the magazine flow into a browsing flow with scrubber-bars for moving forward and back and for navigation. These exist as a layer on top of the content. For me, this is a minor nitpick in the UI. The Wired UI does allow for a more immerse experience at the story level, by allowing users to directly manipulate content on the touch screen.

Also, whether this is a future-proof design approach is in question, and in that sense, this approach may be a bit shortsighted. Yet, as a designer who misses some of the control of a printed page this is a strong step in the right direction for digital adaptation of print. It lets us preserve the notion that in a publication context, a designer in conjunction with her editor will treat the content, curate an experience and lead the reader along a story arc. This is storytelling and should not be confused with browsing.

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