The application that I’m going to reflect on is called flipboard. It’s an ipad application for RSS feeds. Flipboard describes itself as a social magazine, which is literally true because everything inside is organized in a magazine like manner, and to go from one page to another you just need to flip the page, as natural as flipping a book. There are several points that the presenters made during the presentation which are very interesting to talk about.

First, User Interface vs. Functionality, who wins? This is a hard question because the answer should be different in different times. However, as functionality becomes nearly saturated (by saying saturated I mean for each functionality we should be able to find at least one application which can achieve that), I believe User Interface is wining over Functionality nowadays. Flipboard is one case. From the presentation itself, I don’t see much difference in functionality between news pulse and flipboard, however, if I were to make a choice I will choose flipboard simply because its beautiful interface and enjoyable user experience. The simplicity of its design makes you feel so natural that you even don’t realize its existence, which is more of an art than pure design.

Second, the flipping through pages is to simulate real life experience like reading a book, therefore users feel natural. This may due to the natural resistance that we have in oppose to changes. Object has inertia, human thought also have. So how far should we go to simulate real life experience, and when should we force people to change? I don’t know the answers.

Third, flipboard doesn’t allow customization, which I think is a big loss. We like to customize things because we have an inner desire to express ourselves and get recognized. If in the future flipboard can allow users to design their own life magazines and deliver them to others, it will be very nice to see. Also, magazines companies can sell their magazines through flipboard which may be a more healthy business module for flipboard itself.

Fourth, during the presentation, the “cannot clear cache” and “only one user” problems are mentioned, personally I don’t feel them as big problems because I don’t think a normal user with care about how much cache an application uses, (but of course technically this is a issue which should be fixed) Also, how many people will share ipad with others? I believe the number is decreasing as years passed by, therefore the problem should become less and less important 😀

At last, as mentioned by the presenters, when the flipboard team started to build this application, they never think about how they can make money out of it, yet all they cared was is how to serve users better. I respect this spirit a lot 😀


10 thoughts on “Reflection on Flipboard

  1. About your point on customization, I feel that it really depends on the user. Take a look at the iPhone, there is absolutely no way you can customize the UI, versus Android, every customizer’s dream. But who wins? There’s the group of people who would rather take what’s available, or rather what’s best, and there’s the other group who wants to do everything his own style. Of course no one is wrong.

  2. Yes, you are right. There is a lack of knowledge on whether there are more people who like to customize or more people who like to take what’s available. Therefore we have no clear answer to this question 😀

  3. Yeah, about the point on customization, i also have the same view as xianyou: sometimes it really depends on the users. In Flipboard’s case, maybe because the designers have spent lots of time trying to make the UI and UX as intuitive as possible, and they just want to sell that experience to user, without letting user changing that. So they try to sell a whole experience, just like the way Apple did :).

    Abt the cache issue: I agree it’s not a big issue for normal users if it doesn’t get to a severe point. But I’m quite stunned at the fact that they cannot clear the cache and let it get to some points like 5-6gb (is it really the case, or because the team hasn’t found out the way to clear the cache?) If this problem really exists, it’s really a big big big issue that need to get resolved as soon as possible, before even the normal user could feel the problem with their iPad, and uninstall this app.

  4. Yes, I am totally agree with you. User experience should always be the winner. Maybe 20 years ago, people will focus on more functionality than user experience. However, nowadays, everyone could be a coder and even computer itself could generate some simple code. User interface become more and more important than all other things. That’s why apple finally wins the game and changes the world.

  5. When companies like Apple develop their UI, they have design engineers in their R&D working on finding out what users expect and want and this is probably why *most* iPhone users didn’t complain about not being able to customize the UI. Of course, what would be better is to give an excellent UI and an option to customize as well, this will satisfy everyone I guess.

  6. User experience is the most important thing for a software product;
    Google will record your habit in order to improve UX.
    For back-end programmer, users are both normal users and front-end programmers, UX is about easy to use API and speed, stability, and security;
    For front-end designed, UX is about minimizing learning curve, minimizing number of clicks (or simplicity), as well as user’s using habit.

  7. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

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