Popular Science+ is a Bonnier corporation published magazine that attracts over 6.7 million readers per month, focusing on the science and technology of today and tomorrow. The iPad edition of Popular Science+ reveals a host of carefully-crafted designs that create a unique user experience that is easy to understand but, occasionally, tricky to use.
There is a guide to get you started, after the cover page of the magazine. The control requires little explanation: swipe across to move to the next article, swipe down to read more of the article. By tapping the screen in the middle, all text disappears, revealing the backdrop of images that the magazine holds. By tapping the screen at the top right, you bookmark that page. Within five seconds you’ll be on-the-go like a pro.
Popular Science+ has implemented its own user interface for content. An array of horizontal bars exist at the top left and right hand corners of the screen, indicating how far you’ve read through the magazine (at page one, they’re all at the right hand side, moving over to the left with each new article visited). In addition, to encourage users to make use of text-disappearing feature outlined above, a number of vertical dots exist alongside the left-hand side, one dot per background image. The developers have worked well to make all of this blend in naturally, none of it looks out of place.
In terms of actual usage, reading Popular Science+ is a relaxing, pleasant experience. Everything is pre-downloaded with an issue (which clocks in and around 200MB), meaning there’s zero waiting time for video, images or text. Although it is a magazine that features advertisements, some of these ads implement features like scrolling and video that make it more interactive. Each ad is on a separate page, meaning you’ll never be distracted by ads when reading content – a big plus. There’s also a few unexpected surprises within content articles, like circular “holes” that when scrolling move in correspondence with the background image that is laced underneath the article. Smooth gradients and clear separation bars also let you know whenever one particular section of an article is finished and another begins. Finally, landscape mode is present for every article, but the application is much better towards portrait usage.
However, my reading experience was not an entirely seamless one – perhaps in part due to my own usage of the iPad. When I motioned to scroll, sometimes the application misunderstood and hid the very text I had wanted to read. When moving to a new page, sometimes a quick graphic would play and leave me, albeit for only a few seconds, with no control. Ultimately, the biggest problem lies not through any fault of the Popular Science+ developers, but because of the vast array of different magazines available to purchase, each holding their own unique features when it comes to content or navigation. With no unified system in place, you may find yourself motioning one action and getting a very unexpected result, if any result at all.
PopularScience+ do have future plans for their magazine, the most interesting of which is a feature called “Heated mode” – allowing you to “clip passages or photos to send to friends, post to Facebook, or save to your own Scrapbook. You’ll also be able to search across your whole library of issues and subscribe just like you can to the print magazine” (PopSci).
In concluding, Popular Science+ is a smartly designed and solidly built magazine. Although it is for the content that you buy a magazine, the user experience is becoming ever more enjoyable and more and more developers are placing emphasis on a smart design. PopSci developers are no exception. To top it all off, the content makes for fascinated reading.
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