Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Huffington Post launches new, redesigned iPad app offering personalization and native iOS app features

The Huffington Post has launched an all-new version of The Huffington Post for iPad, listed today in the App Store as Version 4.0.

The app description is promoting the app as having a new design and interface, personalization options, new touch interfaces that allow for a two-finger swipe to access the menu and pinch to close out articles, and a HuffPost Live video archive. The app also features new commenting, bookmarks and sharing.

The app remains free of charge.

In general, I'm not a fan of iPad apps that take their content from a news website and reformat it for display on the tablet. A better solution usually is either better web design or a responsive website.
 photo HuffPostforiPad-front-sm_zps8f042cf5.jpg
But the Huffington Post app does point to the advantages of building an app specifically for the iOS platform. By taking advantage of gestures and other platform features, the HuffPost iPad can do things a responsive website might not be able to do.

Having said that, the new iPad app also reveals some of the weaknesses of an app, as well. For one thing, the front page of the new app is, well, about as ugly as they come. I'm sure that it was an unfortunate choice to use that video screen capture for the front page artwork, as you can see at left.

Things get a bit better when you tap on a story and begin to scroll the articles, however.

I think loyal readers of the website will enjoy using this new iPad app, but I don't think this is something casual readers would want to use. The reason for this has to do with the content of the site itself. I click on lots of links each day to Huffington Post stories. When browsing the content in this way the impression is that the site is a serious news site. If, however, I enter through the front door – the website's home page – my impress changes and my view makes a 180 degree turn. I almost feel dirty entering through the home page. This new app, of course, takes you right to the front page upon opening it - how you feel about that will certainly determine whether you will want to use this app.

According to a post of the HuffPost website by Josh Klenert and Otto Toth, the motivation for the new app was that "our readers found our iPad app buggy, slow and difficult to use." In addition, the Huffington Post had grown over the time the old app was launched, with the site now having more verticals and five international editions.

Interestingly, the developers considered the issue of a responsive website versus native app capabilities and came down solidly in the camp of native app development. "Temptation was high to build the new app based on pure HTML5 but in my opinion HTML5 is just not there yet," the post states.

The Huffington Post says that there will soon be a companion iPhone app, as well as a phone app for Android – but interestingly, no mention of a new Android tablet app. Currently there is both a phone and tablet app inside Google Play, though the tablet app has very few user reviews, possibly showing that Android tablet usage continue to lag far behind the iPad.
Left: the welcome screens where the app can be personalized; Right: the HuffPost's website, as seen on an iPad.