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Looking at FlickStackr for the iPad & New York Times on Chrome | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

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

I’ve started studying apps like FlickStackr for the iPad & newyorktimes.com/chrome 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 newyorktimes.com/chrome 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.

Basics
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.

Flow
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.

NYTIMES.COM/CHROME

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.

Customization
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.

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