Reviewer’s note: Functionality Rating refers to how you expect to interact with the magazine and how it actually works. The version reviewed is not the final product, and so this rating is likely to change positively in the future.
The first thing that struck me about Popular Mechanics was its apparent lack of a contents page. But a single tap reveals this and so much more. A discreet menu bar at the bottom of the screen plays host to six buttons. On the very left is Contents – a large interactive box, vertically scrollable, revealing the seven major categories of Popular Mechanics and their articles. Next up is a beautifully designed page viewer. Each category of the magazine is colour coded, and each individual page is given its own coloured bar according to its category. A preview of each page is also available (and adjustable in size), with a single tap pointing you to exactly where you want to go. Options to share a specific page via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter also exist. Individual pages can be bookmarked (loving this), with titles automatically added according to the contents.
A live news feed is also available from the menu bar, meaning there’s always new content to read. The design is succinct and smart, with two fixed scrollable columns – one for a list of content, one for the articles themselves. The final menu bar button allows you to leave feedback and personal comments.
Back to the magazine itself – specifically its design. Videos can be spotted with a gently pulsating play sign and some even have interaction within them. All ad videos were YouTube embedded, and all article videos and animations were integrated into the magazine itself – meaning if you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi or don’t have 3G, you still have the premium features that a digital magazine offers. Text, although not adjustable, is reasonably sized. There is a bit of a discrepancy between longer articles that scroll vertically and scroll horizontally – in other words, for some it was flick down, others a flick across. The norm – which I favour – is for each article to be on its own page, vertically scrollable. This review is covering a version still in development, meaning such confusion should be made void with later versions. Popular Mechanics expect to be rolling out fully-digital versions of their magazine by the end of the year.
That said, the interaction is to be found on a number of pages. One particular feature worth noting was a “swipe for more” gesture, which kept the text body of the article where it was, but the top half of the page becomes a horizontally scrollable area that offered more information on a certain article.
The problems for Popular Mechanics are limited and nit-pickety at worst. The only significant problem I was faced with was a frozen screen when I stopped a particular video mid-way through. Something a quick fix should resolve. The magazine does not rotate, but is instead built almost entirely for portrait mode. The very few times that you do need to rotate (for video), it’ll tell you first and won’t activate the video until you do so.
I was very impressed with Popular Mechanics’ integration. It feels like what a digital magazine should be like. And there really isn’t a better device than the iPad to read it on.
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