Thursday, August 9, 2012

NPR News updates its iPhone app, shows other developers how app descriptions should be written

It isn't news that most media companies are great at telling about others, but awful when having to disclose information about themselves. This is probably why many media companies are pretty bad at writing app descriptions – the less said the better.

The absolute worst is Hearst magazines that write condescending app descriptions that always start with something like "Thanks to all our readers for their feedback." They write that because the feedback is negative – "hey, I'm a print subscriber, why are you charging me for digital?"

But every once in a while you look at a media app and you smile in recognition that the people behind the app truly get it.

I think the NPR News app for the iPhone is one of those apps. Their app description reads like a how-to manual of app description writing.

The "Description" is perfectly organized and complete. It not only tells you what to expect in the app, but sells it a bit along the way. It's also written in a manner that shows that the developers are comfortable with the platform.

The "What's New" section starts off like Hearst in that they include that throw away line – "We appreciate your comments" – but then they go to town describing what has been fixed, or what is new with the app.

They don't necessarily have to do this, they could settle for the line "bug fixes", but they don't. In fact, they start with "bug fixes", then go on to detail them. Here is the "What's New" section from the update released today:
We appreciate your comments. Your feedback helps us to improve the app.

This update includes:
* Significant performance enhancements
* Bug Fixes:
- Fixed app crashing on launch
- Fixed app freezing when you “Add All to Playlist” from a Program and when deleting items from your playlist
- Story swiping is much smoother and faster
- When using Airplay and Apple TV, the iPhone device volume buttons now also control the volume on your TV
- When using Bluetooth headphones, pause/play controls now work
- Fixed rare instance where audio stopped backgrounding
* Fixed the "Contact Us" form
* Updated and corrected VoiceOver descriptions
But at the end they a couple of lines that are pretty important. The first lets users know that they they are ending support for those users who have not updated the OS on their devices. In this case, NPR is telling users that those still on iOS 4.2 and 4.3 will no longer get new releases. But they are wise enough to let them know in advance. This release will work, the next won't – better upgrade.

The NPR News app description also tells listeners that because individual NPR stations encode their own streams the quality of those streams will vary. It is a good reminder.

So, well done developers of the NPR News app. Hopefully other media companies will notice things like this and improve their own work in this area.