Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Economist Group launches web app for tablets that covers the 2012 U.S. election – Electionism

The Economist Group today announced the launch of an HTML5 website for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. The website is optimized, whatever that really means, for tablets such as the iPad and others.

"Electionism combines The Economist's day-to-day opinion and commentary on the US elections, from our Webby-award-winning 'Democracy in America' blog, with detailed on-the-ground coverage from CQ Roll Call and our picks of the best election coverage from elsewhere on the web, all wrapped up in a tablet-friendly format," said Tom Standage, digital editor of The Economist.
The web app was created by The Economist Group Media Lab, an internal product innovation group, and was built with its technology partner, Toronto-based Pressly.

But like other html5 websites built for tablets the question arises as to "why": why a website for tablets rather than simply a website? When a reader encounters the website on their Mac or PC one gets a message saying they are basically unwanted. Wot? You don't have a tablet, little boy?

Further, if the web app is a real alternative to a regular website, built using html5 or not, why doesn't the app ask you to create an icon on your iPad?

OK, I get it, these tablet web apps are the hot, new thing. So, let's take a look at it.

Oh God, more boxes. Like those box cars built by Kia, Nissan and others, I guess this is someone's idea of modern design. But for me, cubism died early last century, can be we please move on to surrealism now?

But once the reader gets past the boxes ont he opening page things improve – at least as far as design is concerned. The layouts are more approachable and the article layouts are typical of native tablet apps.

But I still have to go back to "why": why build a free web app without ads? Where's the business model here? Has The Economist suddenly embraced some sort of socialist ideal? No doubt about it, 2012 is going to be an interesting year.