It’s never easy giving a presentation, even more so when the person is talking about high profile and visible work. I’ve only done a couple talks and from experience can say they’re never easy. Last night Jennifer Brook talked about one of the few iPad apps that everyone with an iPad has probably used a couple times. She described her approach to designing the NYT iPad app to a full (if not sold out) audience at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia for IxDA NYC. As far as talks go I really appreciated hearing about her her process.
While saying “some things in Cupertino have to remain in Cupertino” Jennifer still gave a lot of insight into the before and after launch of the app. I think I’d be doing a disservice trying to recap the entire talk, however there’s a great interview with that she did with Poynter Online titled New York Times Designer Argues for Launching iPad App with Limited Features. In that interview these points ran parallel to her talk last night.
· iPad app was influenced by research on iPhone use
· Designers decided to perfect a small set of features
· App team engaged in “courageous redirection”
· App features can affect production of other news products
· Commit to improving what you have
I have to admit that it was refreshing to see a design talk that I could learn from in terms of approach and process. It wasn’t presented like a recipe but by talking about observations, interactions and reactions. She alluded to transparency, the NYT (and their building) and it made sense with how she was open about the project so far. I don’t think there is that many designers out there willing to put their work out there in front of her peers while talking about both the positives and challenges so far, and the philosophy of iteration.
With all that said about how much I respect her process and approach I have to admit that the NYT iPad app isn’t the first app I go to on a daily basis for news. From a designer’s point of view I think she nailed the talk, but as a consumer of information I think the app as it currently stands doesn’t really give a great news experience that I can’t already get from the web. I should mention that I don’t think any news app out there really challenges the web yet. I also need to say that I don’t like getting my news from any one source but from a collection of sources which is a model most publisher’s run from. There’s some serious challenges for any one news source when they have to compete with apps like Pulse News app, Reeder and even Twitter aggregator sites like TwitterTimes. Of course some of the responsibility for challenging what is going on with news consumption lies with the publisher and not the designer.