Project is the new iPad magazine launched by Virgin last week. It follows in the footsteps of Wired and Maxim in transferring the magazine experience onto a tablet - but is it really the future of magazines?
Project installs in a similar way to other iPad magazines - you install a free app through the app store that then gives you the ability to purchase issues (£1.79 for the first issue). The download took about an hour though others report it only took a few minutes.
The opening screen features a short introductory video that works very well.
The general trend for iPad magazines is to swipe left or right to change article and up or down to read more. Project follows this format and it works in most cases though it would be better if the up/down scroll worked more like a web browser rather than skipping pages.
After a couple of ads and an introduction there is an overview of how to use the app. Not everything is as intuitive as you would expect at first.
Navigation bars appear at the top at bottom of the page when you click the bottom right (though this behaviour didn't always work as expected). The table of contents allows you to skip directly to a feature.
One of the big criticisms of iPad magazines is the ability to share articles - in a web browser its easy as you can copy the link from the address bar or use one of the many social sharing features now included on web sites. Project gets around this by enabling you to include the article in an email. It doesn't quite grasp the social networking sharing options but hopefully that will come later.
The magazine format does lose a lot of the layout consistency we are use to from a webpage, while this does make the layouts more interesting it does cause usability headaches. I often found I was missing interactions, videos and other popups that I might have noticed if there was a little more consistency between features.
The Tokyo feature was one of my favourites, the clever use of video and layout made for great interaction. However there was no downwards scroll, ie. all the contents was within the one frame - again a massive inconsistency from other pages.
Performance on certain features was not great, I got very frustrated with the Ford advert. It was laggy, didn't do what I was expecting and I couldn't side swipe to the next page. Some articles the back/forward buttons worked - on others I wasn't sure how they behaved.
The delivery mechanism is not perfect either - I want magazines to be delivered in the same way that podcasts are in iTunes - automatically. I want to be able to subscribe to a magazine, not purchase then wait for individual issues.
To answer my opening question, yes I do think this is the future of magazines. The format is far from perfect and mastering the interface is going to be very hard. The content worked well, I loved the Jeff Bridges and Tokyo features - I just got annoyed at the lack of interface consistency between them.