The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

We built The Post’s new tablet app. Here’s how we’re trying to fix digital browsing.

(Screenshot)

Today, after much hard work, we launched the new Washington Post tablet app for Kindle Fire. Our app, built specifically for a national and international readership, was a project of passion for our users, our journalism and for the digital culture at the Post.

Below is a look (in the form of a year-book style photo!) at the newsroom and tech teams who’ve been working in tandem to create this product — the mobile innovations group. The teams are formally partnered across news and technology with the mission to create new digital experiences across platforms — what we think is an excellent model for doing digital journalism and product development.

For this app we worked off some simple tablet insights that formulated our UX and our editorial strategy:

  • We know that tablet users come in the morning and the evening.
  • We know they are primarily connected to WiFi.
  • Users time-in-app for tablets is high, a platform made for lean-back reading.
  • The tablet is the largest of small screens and a blank canvas for beautiful designs and high-res visuals.
  • Users care about speed of loading — no more World Wide Wait!

The mobile innovations team:

  • Built a custom presentation layer to produce this app, so editors could easily move around images, add and build in-line photo stories.
  • Is producing two major editions a day (users come in the morning and evening), that go live at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET — but is updated when news breaks.
  • Created a simple UX that allows for a bold display of visuals that lets readers easily navigate the most important and most interesting stories.
  • Speed was our number one requirement. The daily editions (in all of the high-res glory) will be downloaded in the background while the user is away. When the user opens the app, all of the content will be there.

One of the most important things we wanted to tackle, and central tenet that the app is visioned around, is the idea that digital browsing, despite its name, isn’t very easy. The signal-to-noise ratio is high in digital news experiences. Sometimes we love that. We confess to being social media addicts who bounce from site to site to site. But there are times when even we feel exhausted by the never-ending stream.

How do you solve for that? We don’t pretend to have the answer. But we wanted our product to attempt a different way to scan digitally. Most news sites, apps and social services drive readers into stories with bite-size headlines and blurbs. In the tablet space, we wanted to experiment with a better way to scan and soak in information, the way we do when we open up a broadsheet newspaper.

We landed on a concept called “Pinch View” (below) — it’s a view that the user lands on when they open the app. And one that users can pinch in and out of as they wish. In pinch the headlines and text are scrollable, readable at the view. We think this is the 30,000-foot view to allow the user to quickly navigate through while also consuming news. The editorial team is “producing for pinch” — so the user will have enough information in that pinch screen to understand the story.

The user can simply tap the story to open in full ‘Read View.’

These are just a piece of the feature-set and vision of the app, you can read the full release here. The mobile innovations team is excited to debut its first product. We will roll out this app to iOS and Android in the first part of next year, and then we will begin focusing on new mobile audience opportunities thereafter.

Update: We mistakenly left off these (very important!) members of the Mobile Innovations Team: 

Ravi Bhaskar,  Architect 

Guttikonda, Raghu, Architect

Sathaye, Gaurang, Architect

 

The app would simply not have been possible without them. 

Cory Haik is the executive producer and senior editor for digital news at the Post and Julia Beizer is the director of mobile product.

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