Wired Magazine hit the iPad last week with quite a bit of fanfare, and it’s no wonder. This is phenomenal example how magazines should be on the iPad. Before you even move past the cover, two examples of this app’s brilliance jump out at you. First, Wired wastes no time with interactive content, in this case an exclusive clip from the upcoming Toy Story 3. Second, The cover looks like I’m holding a magazine, no matter which way I hold the iPad.
Orientation independence is equally impressive throughout the entire magazine, er, app. Advertisements even take advantage of the orientation by teasing you in one orientation and giving you the rest after you rotate. And stories offer completely different photos depending on how you hold the iPad.
Navigation on Wired is fantastic. By default, flick left and right to get to the next section, flick up and down to read the subsequent pages of each story. If you tap on a page, you get more navigation options. The top bar gives you a home button, quick access to the table of contents, and an icon that looks like the table of contents on its side. This icon pulls up a thumbnail view of the entire magazine, allowing you to thumb through the magazine for articles you might be interested in. One beautiful addition was that the app remembers which pages you’re on, so if you flicked down in a story the thumbnails shows that you are on the second page. Simple yet brilliant.
What is wrong with the navigation is the lack of any hint that the page you’re viewing has a subsequent page you can flick down to view. This isn’t too difficult in most of the articles. If the text abruptly ends, you’re clued in to scroll down for more. But if you had’t viewed the thumbnail overview of the magazine, you’d never know this ad for Intel has a second page.
There’s a big question about what it means for a magazine to be interactive. Wired answers this soundly. The obvious options are there, like advertisements with video and tappable links. Wired fell a little short on both of these though. Videos can’t play inline, so you lose the page you’re on and are forced to watch the video in what feels like a new window. Also, links will cause the app to quit and send you off to Safari. Even the most simple RSS Reader apps offer built-in web browsers, so this was an option Wired shouldn’t have skipped.
But Wired didn’t stop with video and links. The magazine includes interactive sliders that let you complete a Lego car or browse a pop-up book, for example. Product reviews allow you to tap the product you want to know about and the text appears on the page. One story featured an artist Wired thinks you should hear, so you can tap on the play icon and listen to the whole track while reading the review. The only complaint here was that I finished the review long before I was done listening to the song!
In the middle, there was a video icon with no clue to why you should to tap it. Suddenly the screen was filled with a kaleidoscope of images and colors. The video was formatted perfectly to the screen of the iPad, and prompted me to play it for everyone who would stop and look.
Ironically, all of the interactive content makes some of the other pages seem wanting. While each of the sections that offer interaction include an icon that becomes obvious your participation is requested, some pages feel like they should respond, but don’t.
One common complaint has been the number of ads that appear in the magazine. When you’re viewing a physical magazine, it’s easy to ignore since most of the time the ad falls on a page across from an article. On the iPad however, you only get a single page, so each add is more disruptive than in print. Regardless, it is tough to stomach shelling out five bucks for 61 pages of ads… in some cases four pages in a row.
My personal gripe about the Wired app is that the removed my clockbar. I like to keep track of the time, my battery life, and connectivity without having to exit the app to get this information back.
I think it’s fair to say that Wired has indeed set the bar that all other magazines will have to live up to.