I’ve been noticing the rise of small batch media recently. The NYTimes Now app have editors curating stories from their main org, breaking articles down into photos, videos and quotes and linking them back to the full articles. Just like Tumblr’s dashboard.

It’s a good thing for users. It’s engaging.

But mobile design is in this weird state where everything starts to look the same - designers are basically shuffling a media object (photo, quote, link, etc.), attribution and timestamp around. And if they’re not using a grid, they’re futzing with pixels in a feed/list format.  There are only so many ways to perfect the schema. And pretty soon, every service will converge on full bleed photos, flat little sharing icons, dark text for content and light text for everything else. I’m surprised that Tumblr didn’t have full bleed photos until iOS8.

Convergence makes differentiation a lot harder. The mobile interface is basically a rectangular piece of glass. I wonder if we’re at the tail end of something - have we all reached the finish line of how to display content on a mobile screen? If so, I’m excited to see if we’re at the beginning of another revolution.

imagistlabs
imagistapp:

We’re unbelievably and excruciatingly enthused to announce Selfie 1.1 is now in the App Store!
Deets:
iPhone only. Sorry it’s not available on the iPad - we only liked the in situ photo because a) we LOVE it when people take photos with their ginormous iPads and b) that kid’s head is really big and c) it makes perfect sense to check out selfies when you’re at the playground
Everyone. You get to see what everyone else is posting, even if you’re Friends with them
Likes. Two ways to like! Tapping on the photo in the stream or the secret awesome way.
Content flagging = blocking. We personally haven’t seen anything too crazy, but well, the feature is there because the Chieftans of Apps asked us to put it in.
Working URL :) If you invite your besties to download the app, we actually take you to the right download page now instead of some random page we sent you to earlier. Details! OOOOoooo.
Design. The chipmunks who designed the app are hard at work as ever.

Silly details :)

imagistapp:

We’re unbelievably and excruciatingly enthused to announce Selfie 1.1 is now in the App Store!

Deets:

  • iPhone only. Sorry it’s not available on the iPad - we only liked the in situ photo because a) we LOVE it when people take photos with their ginormous iPads and b) that kid’s head is really big and c) it makes perfect sense to check out selfies when you’re at the playground
  • Everyone. You get to see what everyone else is posting, even if you’re Friends with them
  • Likes. Two ways to like! Tapping on the photo in the stream or the secret awesome way.
  • Content flagging = blocking. We personally haven’t seen anything too crazy, but well, the feature is there because the Chieftans of Apps asked us to put it in.
  • Working URL :) If you invite your besties to download the app, we actually take you to the right download page now instead of some random page we sent you to earlier. Details! OOOOoooo.
  • Design. The chipmunks who designed the app are hard at work as ever.

Silly details :)

thisistheverge
But having an Instagram account is like having an abundance of money in a dead currency. So much nostalgia and meaning have been shoveled at us that the aesthetic has lost much of its ability to affect. Merely making your photos evocative of photo scarcity doesn’t make them actually scarce or make others covet them. There’s a deep mismatch between the aesthetic language of Instagram and the affordances of the network. Despite all the manufactured nostalgia, your photo disappears down the stream, largely unnoticed.

Pics and It Didn’t Happen – The New Inquiry (via thisistheverge)

Sidenote: Seems like the permanence of images (Flickr) vs (Instagram) the impermanence of images (Snapchat) is on a lot of people’s minds today. It’s a huge divide and proponents are both sides are drawing lines in the sand.  

I’m having a hard time switching between my ‘nice’ camera vs my phone, going back into my camera roll for images I took months ago - images that deserve some reflection, between keeping around ‘ugly’ images that I had taken just in the moment (receipts, dimly lit bar funnies, ugly food shots, jokes) and nice shots when I travel or am on photowalks, between synching everything into Dropbox, Drive, or Facebook vs keeping images on my hard drive, between storing the increasing visual detritus that I accumulate and have little use other than links on Twitter or Tumblr —  the floaty world between communication, documenting, curating and self-expression… I’m not even going to get into how I want to edit my past; services like Timehop only increases the feeling that I not only have to maintain my current digital image, but also now I need to get a handle on my past.

I’m having a hard time. Anyone who thinks photosharing is solved is nuts. We’re just getting started - because The Image is still the single best medium to get meaning - whether it’s narratives or moments or reactions or commentary - across in the digital world, it means that we’ll continue to generate more images: the problem is how to make sense of it all.

Some recent writings I’ve noticed:

Mobile first sometimes maybe

In reponse to Fred Wilson’s post:

First, I think you can’t abandon mobile. It is the future like it or not. And second, I think it is critical to design for mobile first and then build a web companion.

Which was a response to a post I really enjoyed last week from Vibhu Norby:

We want to place our chips where we believe we have the best chance of succeeding based on our theories and data. For us, mobile is not that place, which is why our new product is going to be launching web-first in the next couple months, with mobile as a companion app. We are taking a big bet on the web and the Internet in general, as you’ll see by how it functions. We are also going revenue-first because we believe in privacy and we’re willing to trade a smaller, slower-growing audience for it. 

Here are some consumer companies who I wished had a mobile first product, cause they would totally rock.

… Wow, it was actually really hard for me to come up with companies who aren’t building mobile as their primary platform even if they should.  Instead, I can think of lots companies I respect who are mobile-awesome:

  • Path
  • Foursquare
  • Twitter
  • Lift
  • Flipboard
  • Square

What’s more interesting are companies that evolved to kick ass on the web, and their opportunities on mobile isn’t clear cut.  Transferring everything you can do on the web to the mobile screen is a recipe for bloat and a messy incoherent product. They all have great mobile apps and I’m curious to see how their mobile footprint plays out, because they have opportunities to tweak and selectively dice up their ecosystems in wonderful ways (or even go in a new direction) depending on the platform.

  • Tumblr
  • Soundcloud
  • Rdio
  • Pinterest
  • Jetsetter
  • Mint
For consumer companies, you have to figure out what your product is and who it’s suppose to appeal to and especially what it does, then I think it’s easier to say that “this should be developed on mobile first” or “that should be developed on the web first”.  
Each platform has its own strengths — for mobile, products that get you to do discreet actions (listen to a track, snap a photo, text a few words, check in, documenting your life) perform really well because you do them in context of the real world around you. Conversely, exploring content, analyzing data, listen to a playlist, or searching for xyz product is appealing on the web, because you’re plugged in at a station and you have the luxury of concentrated time.
emergentfutures
All in all, mobile service apps turn out to be a horrible place to close viral loops and win at the retention game. Only a handful of apps have succeeded mobile-first… You have an entirely different onboarding story on the web. You can test easily, cheaply, and fast enough to make a difference on the web… Without the barrier of a download + opening the app to try your product, you can prove value to the user immediately upon their first impression…. The open eco-system of the web and 20 years of innovation has solved many of the most difficult parts of onboarding. With mobile, that kind of innovation is lagging significantly behind because we create apps at the leisure of two companies, neither of which have a great incentive to help free app makers succeed.

- Vibhu Norby, Why We’re Pivoting from Mobile-first to Web-first

Some contrarian thinking about product development. Well worth a read vs the “me-too” commentary from the major tech blogs.

bijan

bijan:

Yet we do see desktop UI in some of the most popular mobile apps. The biggest offender is the “junk drawer” button. Facebook uses it in their app.

That junk drawer button feels like a cop out.

The folks at Instagram invented a new native touch gesture. Liking a photo by double tapping the actual photo itself.

Previously, on the desktop web, liking a photo or some other thing, meant moving your mouse to a small (like, heart, fav) button and then clicking it.

The Instagram guys ditched the requirement for a little button click and replaced it with a big touch friendly gesture. Two taps and bam, a heart pops up and you’re done. Very satisfying.

I agree about gestures as a natural way to communicate actions on mobile — but conflating a menu/navigation item with an action (liking, republishing, etc.) seems to compare apples to oranges. For apps like Facebook and Path with full featured experiences (streams within streams, events, apps management) — I find the menu button + sideswipe gesture really works. I also appreciate that Tumblr’s text/photo post gestures are shortcuts and alternatives - Hiding important functionality behind gestures may be something that users evolve to learn, but the road there is still long (I was watching some women exclaiming how hard Instagram was to use the other day!)

A wonderful application to add to your iPhone when you want to find something really fun and spontaneous to do. Great for families, date ideas and anyone who likes to try new things. I would highly recommend it!

I sometimes forgot that I did this a while back. Oh, the early days of the App Store. cc @christenduong 

Fuck yeah for building things (even if you look back and know all the things you should’ve done).