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.
With an increasing number of mobile web visitors its important to make sure the mobile experience is as good as the desktop experience. With a number of smart phones including the iPhone not supporting Abobe's Flash technology it's essential to provide an alternative.
A good example is British Supermarket chain Morrisons. My task was to find the opening times of my local store, I achieved this quickly however the bulk of the main page was not viewable because no alternative to Flash was provided.
Looking at the same page through a desktop browser this section provides latest offers.
Even though my goal in visiting the site was not to see the latest offers I still had the intention of visiting a local store where I may have been influenced by what I had seen on the website.
By not providing a Flash alternative Morrisons are missing out on one of their top conversion points - the main banner on the front page of their website - i.e. the section that the majority of the visitors will first see.
Google will be phasing out support for Microsofts eight year old browser starting in March. This is great news for anyone who has to develop for IE6 and for users who haven't found the benefits of a modern browser.
Full details from Google:
We plan to begin phasing out support of these older browsers on the Google Docs suite and the Google Sites editor on March 1, 2010. After that point, certain functionality within these applications may have higher latency and may not work correctly in these older browsers. Later in 2010, we will start to phase out support for these browsers for Google Mail and Google Calendar.
Google Apps will continue to support Internet Explorer 7.0 and above, Firefox 3.0 and above, Google Chrome 4.0 and above, and Safari 3.0 and above.
Starting this week, users on these older browsers will see a message in Google Docs and the Google Sites editor explaining this change and asking them to upgrade their browser. We will also alert you again closer to March 1 to remind you of this change.
In 2009, the Google Apps team delivered more than 100 improvements to enhance your product experience. We are aiming to beat that in 2010 and continue to deliver the best and most innovative collaboration products for businesses.
Thank you for your continued support!
The Google Apps team"
Cinema chain Cineworld have put in some serious work into their mobile site over the past few months concentrating heavily on exploiting latest technology to improve usability.
The updated site fits nicely on the iPhone screen, automatically finds your local cinema and suggests others nearby.
After selecting a film you can click on a time to book tickets through the mobile site.
The improvement in using the mobile site over the normal site on the iPhone is huge and finding film times for your local cinema is much faster.
The Google Chrome beta for OS X is out and I've been using it for a few hours - here are some of my thoughts:
1. Dislike: Not being able to see the full page title is annoying
In all other browsers the page title is shown on the top bar of the window, this isn't such a problem for sites such as ImAFish where the title doesn't change but for Google Mail for instance the title changes when you have new mail.
2. Like: The speed is awesome
The whole experience in Chrome feels fast, pages load quickly and the interface is snappy. Compared to Firefox this is a huge improvement (scrollbar lag has been driving me crazy recently in FIrefox), the speed seems to be on par with Safari.
3. Dislike: No status bar is annoying
When you mouse over links in other browsers you can see almost the full address of where the link is going in the status bar. However in Chrome you just get a little box appear at the bottom which shows you a truncated version of the link. Again I don't see what Google hope to gain by not showing the whole link.
Above: When putting your mouse over the title of the article only part of the URL is shown.
4. Dislike: Tab Mess
Often at work I will have at least 15 tabs open with various projects on the go - Google Chrome makes it very hard to distinguish between them when you have a lot open.
Adding in lots of tabs doesn't scroll them or add them onto another line - you just get lots of little tabs.
5. Like: Maximum Real Estate for Web Page
By removing titles, the status bar and other parts of the browser it does mean you have the maximum amount of space to see the actual web page, though as I've pointed out this does have its downsides.
About two months ago I sold my first website on Flippa.com, a site dedicated to buying and selling websites and domains. Launched earlier this year by a team from the internet resources site Sitepoint the marketplace is like Ebay for buying and selling websites.
The site I sold was www.ipodhistory.com, I originally bought the site from the Digital Point Forums about 18months earlier for $180 (£90 at the time), it was my most expensive site I had bought and was a relatively big gamble. Over the following year and a half I invested in search engine optimisation, added new content and grew a community. In this time I tripled the traffic and advertising revenue.
I listed the site on Flippa and immediately received interest and a number of offers. After around two weeks the site sold for $2000 (£1300). I was paid through PayPal and the transaction went very quickly and smoothly.
You can list sites on Flippa either with an auction style listing or where people submit private bids for a site. Flippa charge a listing fee with various optional extras (about $28 for my site) plus a final value fee of 5% (with a cap of $498).
It's sad to see the iPod History site go from my portfolio but I'm more than happy with the return on investment.
On Sunday disaster struck, my hard drive corrupted and OS X wouldn't boot. I feared the worst but had been backing up for the past two years using OS X Time Machine. Could it be as simple as restoring from backup to a new drive?
My first job was to install a new hard drive, this is easier said then done in the all in one iMac. Fortunately this video from camodesto went through step by step, first removing the glass front, then the aluminium case and then the screen. Finally you can replace the hard drive, I opted for an upgrade to a 1TB drive.
After booting from the Snow Leopard DVD I created a partition on the new hard drive then restored from Time Machine. The process took around seven hours to copy my 300gig of data from the External drive.
When I rebooted my Mac had been restored to 5pm on Sunday, 90mins before it had died. All my files were restored, even my Firefox tabs were saved.
I use many of these plugins on a daily basis and would recommend them to any web developer.
Firebug allows you to inspect elements on a web page and see the associated attributes. You can edit in real time allowing you to quickly make changes to an elements colour, position, border or behavior.
Firebug has a number of extensions that will be covered later on in this article.
Clicking display alt tags under the images menu is a quick way to see if you have missed any. The resize menu lets you test your site in different resolutions.
Extended statusbar is useful to way to see how large a page is to download and how long it takes to load. I often use this to help monitor slow loading pages.
Colorzila allows you to mouse over elements on the screen to see the colour. Its very useful if you need to match a colour or check a colour is correct.
(Note US spelling 'color').
MeasureIT simply allows you to measure elements on a screen and gives you the measurement in pixels. Very useful for checking the height of objects, text spacing and the overall width of the page.
An easy way to take screen shots of a page. Especially useful if the page includes scroll bars as it saves you copying and pasting multiple screen shots together.
YSlow shows you various options on how to speed up your website. Clearly not all are suitable/cost effective for a website such as ImAFish however many are very relevant. Each item is given a rating from A to F and a full explanation on how to implement. YSlow is developed by Yahoo.
8. Page Speed
Linkification is a simply little plugin that converts any URL on the screen into a clickable link. Quite useful for those times someone has forgotten to turn a URL into a link.
10. IE Tab
IE Tab is a nice plugin to test your page in Internet Explorer without actually having to open the Browser. It's also useful if you want a fresh session for a website without having to open another browser.