I like Marco Arment, and even if you don't, one of the things that I respect about his personality is that he doesn't allow you not to have an opinion of him. If that opinion is strong dislike, then at least he inspires something in you. I have read his blog; marco.org; for a while now and there have undeniably been times where I have disagreed with him. One such time (and I had to find a way to bring this up and reveal myself to be the over-caring internet troll I really am) was his blog post about the Playstation 4 reveal conference. I really don't enjoy people talking like experts about a subject they are completely ignorant on. Glad I got that off my chest.Read More
In starting, I want to outright state that I do not want every app to be an offline reader of articles. I do, however, seriously think that app developers could learn rather a lot from Instapapaer about what and what not to do in developing and promoting their iOS app. I'm not speaking as a hardened iOS developer, but as a consumer who's asking for more.
I genuinely remember the first time I opened Instapaper, which is odd in itself, and the immediate acknowledgement of the attention to detail. I could start even sooner than that, and discuss the icon. Crisp, recognisable, and beautifully designed; it already gives away just how carefully crafted the experience will be.
Admittedly, upon initial viewing of the menu, I felt there to be a lack of colour. The deeply contrasting themes are slightly one-dimensional for my tastes. However, the simplicity and playful nature of the icons allowed me to warm to the interface quickly, and after a quick scan of the UI, everything is immediately obvious. The buttons used are instantly recognisable and self-explanatory, and the work without any issue or hidden complexity.
Now, before this article consists of just me talking you through Instapaper, and why it’s such a brilliant example of a considered experience, I’d rather skip to arguably the most important part; the reading. At first, it may seem like just a well-done offline reader, however, after using it for a mere few days; you begin noticing the endearing features which combine to complete the entire experience.
One of the first things that I personally noticed was the rotation lock; not because I went searching through menus; but because I accidentally rotated the screen, and upon rotating back around, it asked me whether I would like to lock the rotation; genuinely incredible. A small and useful feature presented in a genius manner. I then went on to spend time customising the font, testing tilt scrolling, playing with pagination, building up a folder of articles I’ve enjoyed, and even sending an article to my friend; all working towards building up a platform to read articles in which I actually felt connected. Finishing an article is handled just as delightfully aforethought as everything else, with a simple diamond at the bottom, and a link to the source website.
Checking out “The Feature”, I was only further pleased as I scrolled through a list of popular articles, and actually found a satisfactory amount of them to be interesting. This may sound like a redundant comment, however, on too few occasions am I recommended anything by an algorithm which I’d actually like. Amazon and Instapaper may be among the very few.
As you use this app, more and more you notice the things you had been taking for granted. The fact that the screen doesn’t instantly lock after not being interacted with for a few minutes. The way the app will consistently provide you with the text you want, and hardly anything that you don’t. How it frames and positions the photo perfectly, without interrupting any thread of text.
Indeed, I am rather taken with Instapaper, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because this is the work of one man. How important is the fact that this app is Marco Arment’s career? How much does that dictate and influence all of the extra attention and love that goes into this app? I would argue that it all contributes to the final product in a bigger way than you would initially believe.
This is what I really wanted to focus on; the mystery behind how much each app on you iDevice improves if it was the baby of a single developer; their career; their work; their experience. A lot of large companies are out there, developing immensely wonderful applications, but unfortunately they’re among the minority. Instapaper is for anybody seeking an elegant offline reader, but Instapaper is also for the people who can respect the passion, who share it, and who feel better supporting a man who actually gives a damn.