Tablets aren’t just big phones: Insights from Apps World NY

We sat in on an interesting panel at Apps World in New York this week, a two day event dedicated to the latest developments in the field of multiplatform apps.

This particular panel explored the differences in development strategy between mobile and tablet apps; and produced a couple of interesting insights on design and development strategy from the point of view of organisations that have designed and published award winning apps.

Devin Pedzwater, creative director at Spin Media, publisher of the popular music magazine brand Spin set out the thought process behind his firm’s innovative and incredibly successful iPad app, SPIN Play.

In designing the app, Pedzwater’s team and their development partners Bottle Rocket said they looked at how other magazines were tackling their own apps, and knew they wanted to do something different.

“We wanted to take what people know about the website and the magazine and use the capabilities of the tablet to deliver a great user experience, adding a whole new layer to what was already there” he said. “It presented a whole new group of challenges that we hadn’t previously encountered.

“The process showed us we had a whole audience out there that we didn’t know about. We’re a 26 year old brand, targeting a young audience.”

The team had to generate a clear, concise mission statement; one or two sentences packed with meaningful terms that would act as a benchmark for all their ideas and content throughout the life of the product.

“A good mission statement is an important filter,” said Pedzwater. “A crappy one isn’t worth a damn.”

To produce this statement, the team needed to strip back the layers of what they perceived as their brand and its values. They found that music discovery was core to their brand, so this became the core of their mission statement.

However, while this music discovery was fundamental to the service they delivered, the actual process of discovery didn’t always work how they expected. “There are different entry points to the discovery experience,” said Pedzwater. “The development process taught us that people listen to music first before they read about it.”

That discovery is mirrored in the dual functionality of the SPIN Play app, where users can subscribe to a digital version of the print magazine, and browse it as they would a traditional issue; or they can ‘flip’ the app and experience the magazine as a playlist, pedzwaterg into the deeper content and further reading when they hear a song they like.

“We never thought about things that way until going through this process,” said Pedzwater.

Also on the panel was Evan Silverman, Senior Vice President, Digital Media at A&E TV, which has similarly won awards for its Civil War Today app on the iPad. This app constitutes a mammoth four-year project marking the 150 year anniversary of the American Civil War.

The aim was to deliver incredibly rich and varied historical content, giving users a truly interactive experience that allows them to experience the story of the war day-to-day. The concept is like a daily broadsheet, delivered every day to your iPad, telling the story of the four years of the war as it happened on that day 150 years ago.

“When we looked at the war anniversary, we knew there was a lot of content out there already,” said Silverman. “We knew we needed a fresh approach. So there are various ways we leverage the device to make the user feel like they’re participating in the experience.”

The A&E team wanted to harness the tactile nature of tablet devices to this end, using the fact that you can carry them around, touch them and really interact with the content. “That’s the beauty of these devices,” he said. “We designed a bunch of elements that you can feel and touch, like battle maps that you can touch and swipe.

“It’s literally as if you’re holding a paper from 150 years ago,” he added. “It’s all written as if you were reading it in the newspaper from last night. It’s like you’re living the experience of the war in real time. Letting users participate in the experience of the civil war.”

The panel agreed that the way people use tablets, combined with the subtle differences in functionality between these devices and their smartphone counterparts, means that the barriers between users and content are fast being eroded.

“Our tablet app was much more immersive compared to its iPhone equivalent,” Pedzwater added. “We really tried to design it very luxuriously. For our audience the festival season is big, so the next thing we’re looking for are ways to incorporate this into our app.”

For this reason, Pedzwater said, his team decided against designing an iPhone version of the app. “We have reproductions of original letters written by Abraham Lincholn,” he said. “These apps do have an incredible power to change your brand. To truly experience content like that, you need to view in on the big, high resolution screen of a tablet.

“It loses something on a phone.”

To learn more about the future of multiplatform apps, you can visit Apps World Europe, taking place in London on 29-30 November; hear from expert developers and thought leaders from around the global apps ecosystem. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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