Over the past 6 months we have been doing quite a lot of tablet-specific UX work here at Skyron, looking at how to organise, style and optimise content-rich pages. A bit of research into news apps reveals that there are 3 schools of thought when it comes to delivering current news content. For the sake of this post, we named them Flowing Stream, Assorted Boxes and Sliding Panels.
This type of layout displays the content items into a single or multiple streams that require the user to scroll horizontally to access them all. It is used by brands like Fox News, Sky News and Pulse.
Fox News is the richest layout with each stream serving a different purpose. Bit confusing at first but it all makes sense after a minute or two:
Sky News features a single stream of content, which makes browsing very easy as there is nothing to distract the user’s attention:
Pulse features multiple streams, all identical in purpose and divided into topics. Makes sense as a concept, but a bit messy in practice:
This type of layout displays news items in boxes onto contained pages that require no scrolling. These apps have been designed to reflect newspaper or magazine layouts assuming that this would be the users’ preferred way to browse news content. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Flipboard are some examples of such an approach to content display.
The Wall Street Journal is a typical example of a boxed layout. The boxes vary in size and style giving the page a newspaper feel. The content hierarchy has been determined by the editor which influences how the user scans the page:
The New York Times layout follows the same template as the WSJ, but all boxes are the same size and style allowing the user to decide which stories are worth reading:
Flipboard features a fancy page flipping action, but ultimately content arrives in static boxes of identical size and style:
This type of layout offers the richest user experience by incorporating navigation, a content index and a story display panel in the same layout. The layout makes effective use of space by allowing the user to slide the content panels left or right to maximize the viewing area. Such layout is very popular with social media applications such as MyPad, MobileRSS and Twitter.
So which one do I prefer? I will go for the single stream. I am so used to consuming news stories on a smartphone screen that the single row/column of scrolling content is the one I would prefer (Sky News). A page with multiple streams or boxes requires additional scanning effort that hinders fast processing of hundreds of news stories. On the other hand, sitting back with a cup of tea and a biscuit will probably call for the richer layout options. But how often do I get to do that?