Video’s of Cablevision’s Optimum iPad App from People Describing their Experience

Yesterday I posted a number of headlines and quotes about Cablevision’s Optimum iPad App. Today I thought it would be interesting to post videos that people recorded of their experience with the app. The images in the articles are ok but to see people actually interacting is something that I’m finding cool on multiple levels. Just so there isn’t any confusion I’m copy + pasting some of the text from my previous post: One of the best things about being a designer is designing experiences that have never been considered before. It doesn’t get much better than pushing what can be done on an iPad. While at Behavior I had the opportunity to be part of something pretty exciting. I can’t really say much about Cablevision’s iPad app or the design process though I’m really happy to read people’s initial reactions to it.

Headlines about Cablevision’s iPad App Release

Optimum for iPad

Optimum for iPad

One of the best things about being a designer is designing experiences that have never been considered before. It doesn’t get much better than pushing what can be done on an iPad. While at Behavior I had the opportunity to be part of something pretty exciting. I can’t really say much about Cablevision’s iPad app or the design process though I’m really happy to read people’s initial reactions to it. Below are some of my favorite headlines and excerpts.

UPDATE: Here’s an additional post with videos of people actually using the app:

Consumer Reports: Cablevision’s Optimum iPad app offers smooth streaming, despite legal challenges
It provides a smooth, crisp viewing experience and an intuitive user interface.

Cable Spotlight: Cablevision’s iPad App is an Improvement
Cablevision ‘s new “Optimum for iPad” application is an improvement over other earlier efforts in that it allows Cablevision’s customers to view all the channels they can access on TV through their cable subscriptions on their iPads—albeit only in their homes. That’s better than some offerings that do not feature all of the channels and content a subscriber already has paid for.

Multichannel: Cablevision: 50,000 iPad App Downloads In Five Days
Cablevision Systems said its free iPad app, which lets subscribers watch up to 300 live TV channels and access more than 2,200 video-on-demand titles, has been downloaded more than 50,000 times since its April 2 release. The Optimum App for iPad has been the most popular iPad app in Apple’s iTunes App Store’s Entertainment category from Sunday through Wednesday afternoon — followed by Netflix’s streaming app at No. 2 — and is the 10th most popular free iPad app overall.

NYT: Tug of War Between Cable Companies and Channels Comes to the iPad
Meanwhile, Cablevision entered the fray on Saturday, releasing its own iPad app that carries all TV channels the same way a customer’s cable box does. By Sunday afternoon it was ranked No. 1 among all apps in the entertainment section of Apple’s iPad app store.

GIGAOM: Cablevision’s iPad App: 300 Live Channels, 2,000 VOD Titles
The Cablevision app takes an even bolder step: While Time Warner Cable’s iPad offering only launched with 32 cable networks, Cablevision is making 300 cable channels available for live streaming, and extending the app to also include movies and TV shows from its video-on-demand offering. At launch, that will include more than 2,000 VOD titles, with more being added as the cable provider encodes them for IP distribution. Cablevision’s iPad app also includes advanced search functionality that lets users search programming based on genre, cast members, time of day and favorite channels. Like mobile apps from Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV, subscribers can also schedule and erase DVR recordings directly from their mobile device.

Engadget: Cablevision Optimum for iPad app now available, streams hundreds of TV channels plus VOD
The new Cablevision iPad app is out, taking on broadcasters (Fox, Discovery, Viacom) attacking Time Warner’s live TV streaming TWCable TV app by offering subscribers the same channels as their iO TV package and video on demand. The Optimum for iPad app also includes the ability to set up DVR recordings, delete recorded shows and browse TV listings, although it doesn’t act as a direct remote for the cable box. The last time Fox and Cablevision squared off subscribers couldn’t watch their shows on Hulu or two games of the World Series which, along with a long battle over network DVRs, suggests the cable company is prepared to dig its heels in deep on this issue. Multichannel News points out subscribers need at least one cable box to make use of the new app and the TOS states it can only be used within the customer’s residence.

Gizmodo: Optimum App for iPad is iO Digital Cable In Your Bathroom
The free app is poised to take on Time Warner’s TWCable TV app and Dish Network’s Sling-powered Remote Access app, which were both released in the last couple of months boating similar functionality.

paidContent: Cablevision Launches Optimum for iPad: 300 Channels And VOD
Time Warner Cable tossed a pebblein the water compared to the iPad app launched today by Cablevision. Optimum Live TV for iPad offers the cable operator’s digital subscribers streaming access to approximately 300 live cable channels and roughly 2,000 VOD options at no extra charge. The company insists the streaming option, which requires WiFi but not internet access, is covered by existing contracts that allow it to transmit to screens within the home. It also says it meets advertising standards.

Mac Rumors: Cablevision One-Ups Time Warner Cable With New TV iPad App
While Time Warner Cable has been working to add channels to its live TV app for the iPad in the face of opposition from several content providers including Viacom, Discovery, and Fox, Cablevision has gone all in with the release of its new Optimum for iPad application offering the cable company’s subscribers full access to their television packages.

BGR: Optimum iPad app hands-on
We knew that Cablevision was involved in creating an iPad app that enables the viewing of TV content, but we didn’t know that the app would offer iPad owners a better experience than FIOS’ and Time Warner Cable’s offerings. Cablevision’s Optimum app lets you, from behind your own network at home, view your entire channel lineup directly from up to two iPads simultaneously, complete with program guide information, access to the company’s more than 2,000 VOD offerings with the rest coming this summer, while also letting you record and control your DVR directly from the app. After entering my Optimum account username and password, I was immediately able to access every Optimum channel that I subscribe to from my iPad, and after some quick buffering, video looked absolutely great.

Zatz Not Funny: Cablevision Opens The (iPad) Firehose
Leave it to Cablevision… True to form, they’ve thrown caution to the wind and have launched the full fledged STB replacement iPad app we’ve been waiting for.

I4U News: CableVision Optimum TV App for the iPad is what Consumers want Watching TV anywhere in your house on an iPad is what consumers want. Cablevision, a cable tv service, delivered a free app for the iPad that does just that. The iPad app delivers the full cable television experience to the Apple Tablet, and allows the iPad to function as a television. Like all additional outlets, it is free to existing Optimum cable television customers.

Consumer Reports: Cablevision launches its own iPad streaming-cable app
Network objections to Time-Warner’s cable-streaming iPad app didn’t deter another big provider, Cablevision, from launching a similar app over the weekend. Meantime, Time-Warner added a number of new channels (including the Independent Film Channel, G4, and CSPAN) to replace those removed last week after their owners objected to their inclusion on the cable provider’s streaming service.

The Street: Cablevision Channels Its Own Netflix
And in an attempt to preempt any legal disputes, Cablevision said in its press release that it “has the right to distribute programming over its cable system to iPads configured in this way under its existing distribution agreements with programming providers.” Cablevision declined to comment on whether there has been any reaction from any media companies. Cablevision did say that the Optimum App is the top download in the entertainment category in the Apple App Store and is the ninth most popular download overall.

ZDNet: Cablevision’s Optimum iPad app offers hundreds of live TV channels to subscribers — but for how long?
While the Optimum app includes some of the features that other apps from pay TV providers offer — video on demand options, the ability to program DVR recordings right from your iPad — the fact that it will deliver close to 300 live channels is the most notable. Up to three iPads per household can be used to watch Optimum, though only two can be used simultaneously at any time.

WSJ: Cablevision Unveils iPad Software
Likewise, Cablevision’s app can only be used within its customers’ homes, but it takes a bolder approach by offering customers access to all the channels they can access on TV through their pay-TV subscription on their iPad, including broadcast networks and features like video-on-demand and digital video recording. This approach seems likely to generate further controversy in the media industry as it struggles to adapt its business models to the rise of online video, mobile devices and other digital technologies that have met with enthusiasm from consumers.

ADWEEK: Programmers Silent as Cablevision Launches iPad App
Cablevision has a history of prevailing over programmers in copyright scraps. After a consortium of networks sued to block the operator’s network-DVR rollout, a higher court found Cablevision well within its rights to offer the remote-storage service. Thus far, the Cablevision app is earning positive reviews from subscribers who’ve downloaded the app. Of the 252 users who have weighed in on iTunes, 173 (69 percent) have given the service a five-star rating. Only 45 respondents (18 percent) gave the app a single star.

The Motely Fool: Will You Watch iPad TV?
Cablevision amusingly pitched its app as offering conveniences that set-top boxes can’t match, including the flexibility of watching television in uncommon areas. The bathroom, for example. Can you imagine the ad pitching this feature? “Honey, I’ll be back in 20. Modern Family is coming on.” So much for gathering everyone around the TV.

Techland – TIME: Cablevision Launches iPad App Offering 300 Channels of Live TV
Suddenly, Time Warner Cable’s 32-channel iPad app seems much less controversial. Cablevision has launched a new iPad app called Optimum Live TV, which provides subscribers streaming access to around 300 live channels, with an additional 2000 VoD options available. Subscribers can register three separate iPads to each account, with two available for use simultaneously.

WSJ: Cable Companies Seek To Improve Customer Relations With IPad App
A group of high-ranking cable television executives met with Apple Inc. (AAPL) Chief Executive Steve Jobs in Silicon Valley last April to discuss how to make more movies and TV shows available on Apple’s newly launched iPad tablet device. Those discussions eventually led to the live cable TV apps launched in recent weeks by Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC), which could transform how consumers watch TV in their homes but have raised objections from programmers.

Trying to Design the Perfect Remote Control for TV

Over the past year I’ve spent a ton of time working & thinking about an option to experience TV on the iPad. There’s a lot of great things that can be done with a swipe or press of a finger. It opens up better conventions than are available on a set top box that has to deal with old technology and legacy issues. It also opens up one issue that every designer wants to improve—the remote control. All of a sudden if a person doesn’t have to rely on an input device that is painful to use to search and browse combined with an iPad the whole convention of TV & movie viewing changes for the better. I’ve blogged in the past about the remote control experience trying to understand how it could be improved. One remote that got my attention when it first came out through images was from Boxee because of the keyboard on one side. I’ve never tried one so I found the review from Terrence O’Brien to be helpful for pointing out a couple things I wouldn’t have considered to be an issue.

FROM SWITCHED—TERRENCE O’BRIEN: The other major hardware component is the remote, which is unique with its full QWERTY keypad on its reverse side. On the whole, it’s a wonderful creation. Using the keypad is much more pleasant than navigating on-screen keyboards with basic directional controls. That being said, there are a few design quirks that keep it from being perfect. The symmetrical controls make it very easy to grab the remote the wrong way, which had us constantly hitting “menu” when we wanted to hit “play/pause.” The remote is also just a little too wide for comfortable typing, especially since the QWERTY keys take quite a bit of force to press. (Still, we’d take the Boxee remote over the Apple TV and Roku remotes any day.) Alternatively, you can always use the iPhone app, which gives you the option of controlling the Boxee Box with virtual buttons or by using hand gestures. Still, neither the remote nor the the iPhone app offer a good solution for controlling the on-screen cursor. Unlike the Boxee desktop app, many videos require you to launch full-screen mode with the remote’s directional pad, something that is at best inconvenient and at worst maddening.

Reading about the experience of using the Boxee remote a couple themes emerged. Trying to find something to do vs a simple action. For example trying to find a show/video through exploration vs. hitting a specific channel. Again because things are being relied from the remote with an up/down & side to side action it still relies on conventions of normal remotes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. One of my favorite remotes is from Apple. It’s pretty disciplined with the number of buttons it has. The difference perhaps is that there isn’t such a physical disconnect from looking down on the remote while trying to keep one eye on the TV. The other issue mentioned that I wouldn’t have considered is the symmetry of the remote buttons. On screen it looks well balanced—but what happens when the icons and names rub off? Hopefully in V2 of the remote one of those two buttons in changed slightly in shape to signify which is which.

Why Flash should not be used for support pages

I have no Internet service from Time Warner & their support page is in flash which doesn't work on an iPad (currently the only way I can access the Internet at the moment)

Over the weekend I discovered why Flash shouldn’t be used for support pages. I’ve been having brutal issues with Time Warner as an internet service provider. My connection is insanely slow and at times just drops. Sunday morning my internet stopped working altogether and hasn’t come back yet. SInce I didn’t have internet service I went to my iPad with 3G to look up the phone number for TIme Warner support. There was a form field that requested my area code to provide the number in my area. The above screen was the result that I saw on my iPad. Because the page response was rendered in Flash I couldn’t get any information. It’s kind of unbelievable that no one thought that maybe Flash shouldn’t be a technical requirement to get to a phone number.

Looking at FlickStackr for the iPad & New York Times on Chrome

I’ve started studying apps like FlickStackr for the iPad & among among others. This is a really exciting time to be a designer because it seems like every couple months and weeks something is coming out that is really changing how people interact with information. I just started using both FlickStackr and which kind of challenge some of the old ways images and text have been displayed—so I decide to take a closer look at my initial reaction to them both.

Yesterday as I was starting to updates my iPad apps I started to browse the Genius section of the app store. One suggestion jumped out at me right away. FlickStackr was recommended and since I use Flickr a lot. Up until yesterday I have not had a very satisfying experience with Flickr on the iPad. I haven’t been able to swipe or go through a lot of images from their website or any third party app.

FlickStackr is that it displays and makes it really easy to navigate Flickr images. If a person signs in they can see their own images and those of their contacts. Everything that a person can see concerning data and section information on Flickr’s website is available—though structured better. There’s recent activity, recent from contacts, groups, viewing photo streams, view collections, view galleries, view contacts and contact profiles.

Other Feature Stuff
A person can search photos, people and groups while filtering through relevance, recency and interesting. In the action tool bar a person can save an image, open it in a browser, share via email, Twitter and Facebook, have the ability to refresh a page (important when looking at the contact photo stream). Selected individual images have the ability to be commented on, favourited, tagged, EXIF data shown, view what sets the image is contained in, what groups it is a part of and what galleries it might be in. One feature that I’m looking to play with is the location based viewable abilities.

I really liked how the app was able adjust formats in both landscape and portrait modes. Whether I wanted to view a grid of images or list view, both modes worked depending on orientation. Even as I scrolled through images the load times seemed above average. I tried this on a couple different networks and this was the case even with a slow network. If I wanted to see an image full screen it took only a tap or two. If I swiped left or right the image advanced. It was a really enjoyable experience. There were times during the day that I just left the app on with the slideshow playing in the background—that was the first time I’ve ever done that. As I was tapping from one mode or section at a time, the way the columns contracted, colapsed or expanded made sense.

Things That Could Be Improved
As I mentioned about refresh—I don’t think people realize that their contact’s images aren’t the most recent that are viewable if they don’t press the refresh button in the action drop down. Once a person discovers that feature it’s fins, but an easier way would be an auto refresh. I also think that the home button is a bit hidden if a person goes pretty deep browse. Again to quickly go home a person has to use the action drop down menu.

Best Flickr App
This is easiest the best Flickr related app that I’ve bought and used. For two dollars it’s totally worth it. As I mentioned above up until this point there hasn’t been a great Flickr app. As I was studying the UI I was really impressed how fluid everything was.


Within minutes of the first mention of NYTIMES.COM/CHROME on Twitter I opened up the Chrome browser and bounced around the New York Times site to see what it had to offer. After a couple minutes I was curious to see how it handled on the iPad. It was a bit weird for a website to ask if it could allocate 10mb of space to it—but since I was wanting to see what it could do I pressed the OK button. I was happy that in the basic modes I could advance screens by swiping.

After heading back to my MacBook Pro I noticed all the different modes of display. I noticed some display views to be quite polished while others probably could use more time trying to figure out the functionality. On the iPad I really liked the slideshow mode where one screen can advance the images one by one inside each section. When pressing an image the story is displayed. I liked that I could get an overview of a section quickly and having the ability to focus on the story once I was ready.

Stack was my go to mode on the MBP. I found that I could skim the sections quite fast while viewing an image and a couple paragraphs of text. Unfortunately that mode doesn’t really work on the iPad. My fingers weren’t able to advance stories in any of the sections. I tried tapping, sliding with one finger and two—nothing helped. With that said on the web browser there’s some really helpful keyboard shortcuts that I’m using.

More Development Cycles
Gallery view has a lot of potential but needs a couple revs. They haven’t figured out how to flex image heights and widths in a dynamic way. Another issue is the actual article page. It seems like a bit of an afterthought. It feels a bit clunky, especially in the Stack mode. If I’ve read the first two paragraphs with an image and press the read more button, I see the same text on a different page. Ideally it would just advance to the second page of text. I can’t recall if I saw any articles that contained more than one image (I’ll have to keep an eye out for that).

Coming Back
Aside from those minor issues I ‘m really excited with the potential of this site and Chrome’s ability to handle different modes to view content. They’ve given the reader options to decide how they want to read content. That is something that I hope more publications consider. RSS feed readers is something that I use, however if a publisher gives me more options than an RSS feedreader can show me, I’m more likely to visit the site.

Almost Unfair to Bash Magazines on iPads at this Point…

After buying Project from Virgin (see above image) I’ve almost bought the first issue of most blog worthy iPad magazine apps. I bought Wired, Glamor, New York Magazine, the New Yorker, Time, Popular Mechanics, some food mag that I can’t even remember the name of and stuff that wasn’t really even an app like Dazed. I’m just about the earliest adopter out there when it comes to trying to deconstruct what media companies are doing with apps. I have not bought a second issue from any of them.

There’s a couple reasons for this—the stuff is designed for paper, not a screen. I really have to wonder if anyone that designed for the iPad has actually tried reading the type they’ve set on screen. I also wonder if they actually use a web browser to read stuff. If so, I’d like to know their reading habits on screen and if they actually own an iPad. The type is awful, there’s zero consideration for line length, leading and pace. It’s petty easy to blame Adobe, inDesign and their workflow programs. But I also have to wonder if left in the hands of developers and engineers if we’d be better off—I doubt it.

While most of Virgin’s Project looked like it was designed in inDesign there’s aspects like the type placed over video that makes me hopeful that new programs will be developed for the iPad. Print programs can’t import video. The biggest issue holding back new methods of publishing is using print programs like inDesign. Experts in readability on paper have done a poor job translating the experience on screen. I hope some of the people dropping type try reading what they’re setting for screen because it’s not pretty. Trying to replicate one experience onto another really ignores the potential advantages. Hopefully they realize this before it’s too late. I also hope there’s a publication next year that makes me want to buy a second edition.

Stuff that I liked in 2010 (the Product Edition)

The years is almost up so I figured I’d take a look at some of the things that I actually bought and list them. I decided to list it alphabetically because trying to make it a top ten would be hard to do. For example I don’t think anything can really compete with an iPad on my list. Most of the stuff isn’t that out of reach for the average person—typically when I started thinking about it most of the things I bought were somewhat affordable. What I decided to leave off the list were clothes, food and travel. Those should be saved under the category of experiences. I also didn’t include review books just for the simple fact that I didn’t buy them. I just felt if I was coming up with a Design Notes approved buying guide I didn’t want to include JPGS of things that I never saw in person or wasn’t willing to buy myself. The interesting pattern that I noticed after writing most of the reasons why something made my list was that I could carry it around with me easily, I could make something with it, it inspired me and it was affordable.

Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art
by Patrick Nguyen & Stuart Mackenzie

Beyond the street

Beyond the Street

For anyone that is a fan of street art, there’s two books that should be added to their library. This one one of the two. Aside from hearing first person accounts of some artists a lot of the info that I’ve come across has been from the interwebs. What’s great about this book (aside from the beautiful production) are all the interviews that make up the bulk of the work. The time and effort was well appreciated by me.

iA Writer

iA Writer for the iPad

I’m a huge fan of the keyboard from this app. It’s a smart way of making writing easier on the iPad. Plus the fact that I have a guesstimate of how long it will take someone to read what I’ve written is nice.

Apple iPad MC496LL/A Tablet (32GB, Wifi + 3G)


This is an obvious choice for me. I pretty much use it everyday and find new ways to do tasks every couple weeks that make life easier for me.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 12.1MP Micro Four-Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Lens

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 12.1MP Micro Four-Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Lens

I had been using the Leica D Lux 3 for a couple years, it did a great job but was really slow in terms of being able to take more than one image at a time. I also wanted something more versatile in terms of lens. The GF1 was the perfect camera to graduate to. It’s small enough to carry with me all the time, the image quality is much better and I love using it. I haven’t bought any other lenses yet, but the fact that I can is a great option. Another great feature is the auto bracketing. I could go on and on about that camera…

MUJI Recycled Paper Note – Double Ring – Dark Gray B5 – Plain 80

MUJI Notebook

I would be lost without this thing. I carry it with me as much if not more than my iPad. The book is inexpensive enough that I don’t feel guilty for writing notes in it. It’s also not over designed which is the biggest issue that I find with a lot of branded notebooks out there. The inside of this black MUJI notebook is plain white paper.

MUJI Gel-Ink Ballpoint Pen 0.5mm


I buy these five at time, there’s always one in my pocket and the stream of ink makes it easy to write on almost any surface. If someone’s lost a pen I always give them one of my MUJI gel ink pens if there’s any extras in my bag.

River of News

River of News iPad App

I use a number of iPad apps to stay updated (Pulse, Flipboard, Reeder etc), however when I weant to read from my RSS feeds stored in Google Reader I start with River of News. The UI is pretty straight forward, it has the share functionality that I want and there’s some small visual design details that no one else has been able to match. I just wish they’d change their app icon—it’s brutal.

Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art
by Carlo McCormick, Marc Schiller & Sara Schiller

Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art

Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art

For anyone that is a fan of street art, there’s two books that should be added to their library. This one one of the two. What I like about this book is that it puts a lot of what I’ve seen into a context that I hadn’t really considered before. When ever I go through this book it inspires me—not so much to make my own art, but come up with really cool design ideas. It’s hard to explain except that I find that it’s a lot easier for me to think about designing something after I’ve seen some great art on paper.

U.N.K.L.E.: Where Did the Night Fall

U.N.K.L.E.: Where Did the Night Fall

This is probably my top album of the year. I’ve listened to it a million times and never tire of it. I’m actually listening to it as I write this post.

Zero History
by William Gibson

Zero History

While this isn’t my favourite book of the year (not sure if I have one), I’ve really enjoyed the fact that I can read this book anywhere with both my iPhone and iPad while not worrying about what page I’ve left on.

Comparing, Reviewing and Talking about Product Experiences


Anyone that visits this blog once in a while or follows me on Twitter finds out pretty quickly that I’m a big fan of my iPad. I actually want a second one though I’m not seriously considering it. There’s a lot to be read about different apps, uses and experiences. For me I need to know this information both as a designer and someone that wants to keep updating things when needed.

If someone is in the digital realm I really don’t understand how they can call them fluent with what they do if they don’t have one. Its not about being a fan boy/girl but realizing what things have changed from the browser as we used to know it and how things have evolved because of the iPad screen and how information is now being served up. News consumption has changed, how data is presented, the merging of video, photo and sound and how programs are even written. Plus they need to know if it’s an appropriate channel for clients. Maybe it isn’t—but how will they know?

Last week MUJI released one free calendar app and one pay app that’s like a journal. I saw links about it popup on sites instantly. It was cool and worth a mention but I had to wonder how many people had actually had an iPad or had even downloaded the app. I downloaded it,thought it was nice but didn’t really help me much as I’m still stuck with iCal and not google calendar. There’s a subtle feature of the calendar that I think most people that downloaded it would have noticed. Instead all I read about how MUJI was “on brand target”.

There’s a suitcase graphic that moves around depending on the angle that the iPad is being titled. It’s noticeable for user, apparently not so much for video watchers. There’s nothing wrong with with talking about iPad apps if they’ve never used it-but think something about the experience of describing the experience is lost. I wonder how credible a post can be if the experience is coming strictly from observation and not from actual interaction.

I know plenty of people that have had an iPad and sold it-it wasn’t for them. Totally understandable. But I’ll never get people that dislike or sharing experiences about something without even using the thing-it’s like their adding a fuzzy layer of insulation from learning something new.

Phaidon Design Classics By Phaidon Press iPad App

Phaidon Design ClassicsBy Phaidon Press

Phaidon Design ClassicsBy Phaidon Press

Phaidon Design ClassicsBy Phaidon Press

Phaidon Design ClassicsBy Phaidon Press

Phaidon Design ClassicsBy Phaidon Press

Phaidon Design ClassicsBy Phaidon Press

Phaidon Design ClassicsBy Phaidon Press

I was taking a look over at Pica+Pixel blog and noticed that they were talking about Phaidon Design Classics By Phaidon Press iPad App. I’ve been complaining about the lack of well design ebooks for the iPad so I was eager to check it out. It’s a bit pricey at $19.99 for a digital book but I’ll take the hit to “test” it out.

Phaidon Design Classics is one of those sets of books that are hard to forget once a designer has seen them in a bookstore. The print version has always been too expensive for me so having the opportunity to get the entire collection digitally is awesome. As far as UI goes, it’s pretty intuitive. There’s essentially two modes, an exploratory swipe and a keyword search. In the exploratory mode images fly by at various sizes making it easy to pick out objects. It would be nice if I could control the speed of the zooming with my finger though. Searching by typing was pretty easy. Once I pressed on an image it became full size. Another press placed text over top of the image. I found the type slightly constrained but much more considered than most ebook novels. There was also an additional image(s) attached to main image. Aside from the visual exploration there is filtering by categories and designers.

As far as UI’s go I think the format could fit other photo objective intensive books. It’s a nice example of extending what the print version was into the iPad using motion, swiping and quick load times. Would I want every book to act like this—probably not but considering this is the first that I’ve explored I’m happy with the experience.

A Couple Thoughts about SPD’s Paper to Pixels v2: Lessons Learned from the First Wave

At the moment I’m curious about all things iPad apps for a couple reasons. I have one and really enjoy what it can do in terms of displaying content to experience, I’m designing a couple apps at the moment and I’m interested to hear best practices and experiences. I think that there’s a huge shift from the computer as a work experience to screens that offer a lot of capabilities never assumed before. So when talks like SPD Paper to Pixels v2 are programmed in relationship to iPads (and tablets), I’m pretty interested in going to them.

Each of the panelist (Neil Jamieson, Deputy Design Director, People, D.W. Pine, Design Director, TIME, Michael Lawton, Design Director, and Peter Herbert, Sr. Art Director, Popular Mechanics and Joe Zeff, President of Joe Zeff Design) had ten minutes to talk about their app, process (before & after the iPad came out), and general thoughts about it. In the case of Zeff he gave an overivew of different types of apps, business and what their company is working on.

iPad apps from publishers are disntinct in their release time. They follow their print version of the weekly, monthly & one time “book”. Each of those releases are going to create unique time constraints on how the work is going to be created. Each publication went through a lot of iterations to get to the format that they’re at now. They have basic interaction flows & buttons, they tend to design for two formats (portrait & landscape) except for Popular Mechanics, the print edition closes before the iPad version is worked on. It sounded like most of the design is produced with inDesign which has limitations of the interactions. Print metaphor being used for screen interactions.

There was a slightly different model for the weekly vs the monthly in terms of time a story might take to produce. Popular Mechanics has more time with an issue so interacitve features can be devloped longer. A designer might talk to a programmer about what is possible before the concept makes it’s way up for approval. The weeklies seemed less interactive with moving graphics and more about converting print to screen. Buttons are designed so that a secondary layer on top of the original page pops over. They all seemed adverse to any type of kit that would flow their designs, they also seemed to feel that standardation templates weren’t worth using as it would impeed the need for a designer.

In terms of graphics that were developed with CGI, CAD (it might have been some other technical program), flat image can be converted into three dimensions easily. I do think as things can scale in size depending on zooming, vector graphics will stay nice and smooth while other illustration methods of production will have to adjust. Otherwise they look fuzzy. Photos look great and allow more to be displayed than a print version can. I think they’re still trying to figure out videos in terms of whether their clips, bringing stuff in from sources like YouTube or animating illustrations.

Web, Print and the iPad
Most of the design groups went outside for consultation. It felt like they (print people directing the iPad) avoided the web teams at all cost. This is where things got interesting for me. There seemed to be a lot of friction in attitude with the freeness of the web. The editorial side seemed to be holding back on content that people might buy with the actual magazine. I can’t really blame them but if no one knows about the story how are they going to buy it? Other print influences like text constraints with the copy desk were finding it’s way to the apps. Fit to print shouldn’t have to exist with an iPad yet those types of conventions seemed to drive the design.

When is the Hybrid and Evolution Going to Happen?
Looking at the number of people that touch any particular article, the number of times it is designed and the lack of ability of the reader to share the information that they’re reading make the apps that I saw last night pretty unsustanable. Plus when new screen devices come out, will they be desined five or six times?

It would be easy to create a venn diagram that has one circle for web overlapping with print and in the middle would be a happy iPad app. On paper that makes sense, in real life I think that’s less attainable. I think workflow has to be built from the ground up using best practices of continously building and iterating on stories as information develops. For other stories that need to be vetted out and edited in final form before going public, allow the story to dictate the length, not trying to fit into a print sized grid. Maintain a regular publishing cycle but allow for that schedule to flex when appropriate. Don’t treat content that is being read on screen as a lesser value, create venue’s for people to share what they think is really valuable. Subscriptions is a print based idea, online apps should reconsider this. More acess to resources within a story is paid for, less access to browse allows someone to see if they want to pay for the issue. The only nature to make modifications to reading shouldn’t be ignored. Give the reader the ability to adjust line length, size and background colour if they want to. The system should be able to flex and adjust to those type of visual treatments.

Sometimes it’s just nice to read something
While there’s infinite possibilities to do stuff on screen, one thing needs to be remembered. Sometimes it’s just nice to read something, not to do something as they’re reading. Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be. If the story, photo or any other media type is treated as the atomic unit that is the basis for the production and is flexible for the screen that it is going to be seen on, and not be contrainsed like print production, a great experience for the reader can be achieved while being successful for the publisher both financially and reputationally.

Comparing the Best iPad Photo Apps—Edited vs Public Stream



Last week I came across the new iPad app Flickr Photo Map (Flickr btw didn’t release it) that displays photos that are geo tagged inside of Flickr. I really like how it has changed how I explore Flickr on my iPad and thought it would be a good exercise to compare it with my other favouriet iPad photo app—Thomson Reuters Galleries. The glue is that both apps display images though one is a public feed while the other is an edited collection updated daily.

By far the best feature to me is the fact that it takes galleries that are already on the web and makes the visual experience even better on the iPad. The images load fast and can be viewed full screen. Spending ten minutes on the edited galleries of any given day gives a viewer a pretty good idea what’s going on in the World. It’s not grabbing every story but it still sheds light on a lot of world events. The catch of course is that the images are selected and edited so of the millions of images taken over a week a person is seeing only a small fraction.

The home screen displays a number of current galleries along with a couple slightly older ones. As far as I can tell there isn’t any way on the app to find stuff that might be older than a couple weeks—I still have to go to the web site for that. I also have no filter control so I can’t decide to see more images or dive deep into any one section. I also have no where else to go once I’ve finished one set. If I make it through an entire set the chances of me wanting to see more images related is pretty high. But for a free app I can’t really complain too much. If I had more controls, had the ability to save favorite images & galleries and was able to zoom in, I’d probably pay a monthly subscription. Of course if I end up waiting for images to load I probably wouldn’t pay.

I’ve been complaining for a while that Flickr has done nothing with the iPad. They still haven’t but one person has taken their api and started displaying Flickr geo tagged images on a map. The app is far from perfect but I’ve found myself drawn more and more to it. The biggest issue is that a viewer thinks their seeing images viewed in real time—which it isn’t. The same set always loads when a person turns on the app. However there are filters such as tags, text, place and username that allows for control. I’ve found that if I tweak some of the controls I can get a decent date range. While it isn’t real time I can get a good sense of what has happened in the past couple of days.

My favourite feature is zooming into an area. As I zoomed into particular cities and streets it was amazing to see what photos had been taken. I visited old cities I used to live in, where I currently live and places I might not ever visit. The iPad is the perfect display unit for maps with images. Comparing the app experience with Flickr on the web in the context of geo, there was no comparison.

Ironically the weakest part of the app is trying to see an actual image in full screen. The natural tendency is to expect a larger image once a finger is pressed on it. However what does happen is a thin dialog box appears with the text that corresponds with the image. The idea is ok but the reading experience isn’t good at all. The only way to see a larger image is to press on the “i” button at the end of the text. Once pressed the image become bigger with the same text below. This is the pop up I would have expected with a previous press, not two presses. However with that pop up open a person has the ability to visit the Flickr page of the photo. Again the experience is perfect but comparing to the web there’s really no parallel that I’ve explored with.

They’re really hard to compare feature to feature because they’re system of selecting images is completely different. The fun thing to do is take some of the best features in each and try to combine them. Being able to explore Reuters via geo would be pretty cool plus allow more galleries to be displayed, for the Flickr map if I could see collections of what people had favorited would be a great daily and weekly experience. Both of those systems would balance the need for a streaming feed while giving real people a chance to decide what is worth viewing.

Exploring Gesture Deficiency

Yesterday while working on a multi touch iPad UI issue with Chris Fahey, the phrase “gesture deficient” came up. We were looking at some of the iPhone swipe actions to multi delete and wondered how many people like or even know about some of the things a person can do to swipe. Essentially there’s features built around those that are “gesture deficient”, for those that didn’t know that they can swipe delete things on their iPhone. This also relates to the iPad as well. One interesting response that I was asked about on Twitter after mentioning the statement was “what is the “unsuck” definition of that?” To that I replied “possibly swipe happy or happy tapper”.

Continuing on the swipe theme on a touch screen, I came across the iPhone game We Sliders. At first there doesn’t seem much to it. It’s actually quite ambient. There’s no music (though that would be cool), just shifting colour as a person moves the bars. As far as I can tell the goal is to sync the bars together by moving them side to side. At first there’s just two bars, once that level is completed is becomes three and after that it increases incrementally. I managed to get to six bars last night. As far as experiences go I’d rate this pretty high just on the uniqueness of the game and the discipline to keep it very simple (yet difficult) in terms of game play.

Turning a Print Magazine into a Friendly iPad Version, Looking at Dazed & Confused

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Now that the iPad has been out for a couple months I’m starting to see different types of clusters of functions happening for publishing. There’s the standard web version through a browser, stand alone mags like Wired that have to be designed twice to fit portrait and landscape formats, pdfs, feeds like Flipboard and now a light weight flipbook like device that is essentially the print magazine in digital format. While the tech fan in myself would prefer a fully immersive and interactive experience, swiping through Dazed & Confused for the first time was pleasant enough.

Dazed & Confused used the publishing service Exact Editions to format their magazine so it could be viewed in an iPad. A viewer has the ability to see full spreads, individual pages and the ability to zoom in on an image which I feel is a really important feature that some photo heavy iPad apps are missing on. The trade off is that there is a slight load delay for each page to load—something I’m fine with because I can see a lot more detail with the images. I also noticed that the ads made a lot more sense in terms of visuals, really nice formatted images. The only glitch in the full spreads is that the images on don’t always line up if it is a full bleed through the center of the spread. The navigation also allows for a quick tap to thumb through all the pages.

How is it to read? I didn’t read from cover to cover but I didn’t have any issue reading the articles that I did. I’ve displayed a couple examples showing the full spread and the quality of the image when I zoomed in to read. Sure I couldn’t tweet about an article or share it, but I also don’t think that is the point. Again I usually would tend to feel everything should have a url attached to it, but for this I didn’t really care. Would I pay for this? Looking at Amazon, the print version is $75.00 a year ($6.25/issue). That’s a bit expensive for a really limited set of features. I could see myself paying somewhere between $35 to $40 but not much more. After all I still can get a ton of great content already designed specifically for an iPad that allows me to do much more. As a younger and more digital savvy type of publisher emerges there will be some pretty cool strides made in the upcoming year. For now it is interesting to watch how they figure out what that is.

Some Ambient Themes about the #Flipboard iPad App

Flipboard Landscape

For those that have had the chance to read content displayed on Flipboard for the iPad, there is almost universal approval of the experience. Yeah there are people that weren’t able to download the app for the first couple of days, and they should have had better error messaging explaining why some Twitter lists and people weren’t able to be followed. But with that said there’s a lot to take note with how an app with content is dynamically choosing, sifting and making layout decision for two different display formats. There’s a number of themes that I haven’t read about yet that I thought I’d mention here. What I won’t be talking about is how an app like this would probably not work outside of an iPad.

Dynamic display vs hand crafted
For those that downloaded a 500mb+ issue of wired, no one would suggest that the design wasn’t great. But the sustainability of downloading something that large, having people hard design for two different layouts and not bring in live content are huge issues. Compare that to the lightweight nature of Flipboard. While the design isn’t perfect there’s enough variety between images, text and tweets that are treated like quotes to keep people interested. There is the ability to bring in current content on a regular basis. They’ve created a system to pull in content that lives as opposed to a huge download that can’t keep up.

Photo formats can change
This isn’t new for developers that code for cropping algorithms but for the common person they kind of take image formats for granted. Basically the program is set up to crop for efficient within the layout. To an image inside a grid the top and bottom might be cropped or vice versa, the width taken in. The code can also try to pin point the focal interest and crop around that area. It isn’t a perfect method but Flipboard is doing a pretty good job. I haven’t come across that many images that seemed really out of place. Sometimes their system is pulling ads which is annoying but has nothing to do with cropping. To pull in the amount of content that Flipboard is doing, and displaying it—a team of designers would not be able to keep up.

Starting with a url and displaying different content
This concept is big to me. I can send out a tweet with a limited number of characters, however if there’s a url included I can display that tweet in a lot of different ways. It’s an amazing use of efficiency to display a lot of stuff.

Questioning of filters—what shows up and what doesn’t
I think people over time are going to start wondering about why some content is showing up, but not all. We have all be used to an editor choosing what we read. It isn’t always obvious why some content is being shown but we don’t think a lot about it. Because the content from Flipboard is very obviously coming from an algorithms, people will question it, and possibly want to be able to change the filtering to better suit their interests. At the end of the day it could be a thumbs down icon that lets the system know what a person doesn’t like reading or viewing.

Timing, what is important and relevant
Another issue is trying to figure out what is the good stuff. It is pretty subjective. Some people like the newest stuff, for other people it is about the source and for others it might be the topic. Flipboard as it currently is, doesn’t really make a distinction. There’s a firehouse with no custom filtering.

Where should stuff go once it is read?
If I’ve already read something or looked at a picture, do I really want to see it again. Maybe, maybe not. At this point the content just refreshes but doesn’t automatically disappear. It’s not a huge issue at this point but if all the content is being streamed via Flipboard’s own servers, it is hard for them to keep everything saved for a long period of time. So if someone wants to keep something, they’ll have to figure out how they want to archive it themselves.

Close is the New Back Button on Apps

apps are becoming their own browser. a good idea is to link out with a back button inside the frameWed Jul 21 03:39:01 via Echofon

Last night as I was going through Reeder and Pulse News apps at the same time on my iPad, I made a simple observation to myself. The apps that allow me to visit the web through their app are more likely to be used by me. EW Must List app does this when linking out. Basically there’s a back button that is inside the frame as this screenshot notes. However as I kept bouncing on my rss iPad feed readers the back button really didn’t exist. It was the close button that kept popping up. That lead me to this tweet and the following responses.

has the back button been replaced by close?Wed Jul 21 04:26:47 via Echofon

@MichaelSurtees Yes: tabbed browsing + search in the browser has made back button much less importantWed Jul 21 04:35:45 via web

@MichaelSurtees Most of the time, I’d rather hit “close” than “back” — if those were my only two options.Wed Jul 21 04:30:16 via Twitter for iPhone

First off—sorry for the messy backgrounds of the tweet embeds but I didn’t feel like taking a screen shot of each comment. What I’m trying to note for myself with the close button on an app is that it is quite different from the normal web and linking stuff that a browser allows. Typically it would be a pop up. For an app it is a close button. It gives the sense of leaving the app while in effect it is pulling content in as opposed to sending someone away. It should also be noted that typically if there’s a close button, on the opposite side of the bar is a button that either allows you to share the info with a tweet or open it in Safari.

No Kidding that Kindle ebooks Outselling Hardcover on Amazon

No Kidding that Kindle ebooks Outselling Hardcover on Amazon

No Kidding that Kindle ebooks Outselling Hardcover on Amazon

I don’t think it should really come as a surprise that Kindle ebooks outselling hardcover on Amazon. The process of buying a book is simple and fast. Since buying my iPad I’ve bought four books so far. The last book I bought was a couple days ago—let me explain how fast it was to do. I was reading the blog post from A VC about the book Grumby. The book sounded interesting so I typed the name into my Kindle app on the iPad. The book appeared in Amazon and with one click was downloading into my iPad. If I had visited a bookstore, between the time to actually travel to the store and track the book down could have easily taken an hour, maybe more. With that kind of effiecincy it isn’t hard to recognize why people are buying a ton of books for their iPad. The other factor I think is cost. I can buy a couple digital books or one hard cover.

No Kidding that Kindle ebooks Outselling Hardcover on Amazon

No Kidding that Kindle ebooks Outselling Hardcover on Amazon

What isn’t working is the design. Publisher’s need to start investing in better experiences with reading. Justified type with huge gaps between words is awful. I’ve also yet to buy a book that is image intensive. It’s a market waiting to grow pretty quickly. With that said there is one publisher that should be pointed out for actually getting online. Rosenfeld Media publishes books for UX people. I’ve bought a couple online and they read really nicely. They’re essentially pdfs but take the standard file a lot further. Anything that could be a link is hyperlinked in the file, and images a linked to larger files hosted on Flickr. They’re really simple and obvious things that no other publisher is doing in terms of the books I’ve bought for my iPad & Kindle app.

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