Washington Post appThe Washington Post app is available for the iPad. There’s everything wrong with it. Not only is it poorly designed but its execution is lacking and it’s apparent where the failings are.

In no particular order…

It’s for-pay—with ads

These two things should never appear together in this medium. Yes, you pay for a physical paper and get ads—but that’s an entirely separate issue.

Registration required

To read any story, even during the free trial period before subscription is required, you have to register. This is profoundly wrong and, dare I say it, stupid. It shows the WP doesn’t particularly care for its users. Therefore, I don’t particularly care for them.

But such an egregious hoop can be tolerated if life on the other side is worth it. Once you’ve registered and accepted the fact that there will be ads, what’s the app itself like?

It’s jammed busy with clutter.

I compare WP to the USA Today app, which I read a lot over lunch. USAT is clean. I’m looking at the front page of WP right now and it’s so jammed that the stories are elbowing each other. For example, there’s a headline “Did the tea party cost Republicans the Senate?” and directly underneath that is a photo of a mob using a, what is it, a bedframe? as a battering ram. Has the tea party has gone more mental than they already were? OH! No, it’s about the student protest in London. Excellent use of white space, WP! Compare with USA Today, which has luxurious and smart use of white space. Everything in USA Today looks calm, focused, and like it’s there on purpose.

Ads are intrusive

The ad along the bottom interferes with the tabs along the bottom in that it looks like the ad cuts off whatever the tabs are supposed to be saying.

There’s no visual cue that there’s a fold

The aforementioned photo rides perfectly along the bottom of the top and it looks like the app offers four stories, a misleading photo, a bunch of tabs, and some ads. There’s no cue that I can scroll down and see, what’s that, seven more stories.

The boxes aren’t being fed properly

See the “Bomb could have downed plane over U.S” story? First, there’s no period for the S but aside from that, there’s no sentence either, like the rest of the page. It looks dumb when it doesn’t need to be. That headline isn’t particularly long, but it’s either too long for that box or the feed isn’t inserting the text correctly. My money’s on a too-long headline (or too large a font) because I bet you the period for S is being truncated like the rest of the tease.

Nitpick: Why does the tea party article have “The Fix?” Must be a WP thing I’m not familiar with. My point is, why doesn’t every story have this? Or, why do any of them? Who cares? Should I care? I don’t know.

About the Settings

Who puts Settings last after About and FAQs beneath the gear icon—the universal icon for settings across all iOS apps since Roman times? And About is first? Seriously?

Who doesn’t put any settings for the app under Settings?

This makes the app look rigid and square in a non-geek socially inept square kind of way. It square from its tight grid layout enough already.

Individual articles are more difficult to read than necessary

When you tap one, the tabs and the ad remain which makes for reading area that’s too small for the article. It’s like I’m reading the story through a tiny window. Combine that with a surprisingly large margin ad and I find I have to scroll more than I should. Compare to the USA Today interface which replaces the whole interface with just the article and with page icons at the bottom for navigation.

Content isn’t optimized for their boxes

The politics section has a pic that’s been re-sized to fit the box. The pic itself is clearly smaller than that area and since its enlarged it looks unprofessional. This, to me, shows that they’re not supporting the app editorially, just shoehorning existing content into the app. Lame. The idea that this is a paid app for shoehorned content is exciting in a bad way.

Personal note: I, on paper, (ha! see what I did there?) like the idea of reading Twitter and FB comments about an ongoing story. But here’s the thing: I already use Twitter as my primary source of news (seriously). Whatever’s going to appear in the WP app I’ve already learned about previously—I don’t want to read headline-grade snippits underneath an in-depth article about the same story. But I (would) read the WP app (or in my case USA Today) for is information beyond headlines. But WP doesn’t want me to read the whole story because of its tiny window scrolling viewing style. You know what’s easier to read? The Twitter feed. And USA Today. Or the NYT app.

What really happened

It seems clear that someone, by that I mean J. Jonah Jameson, at WP said: “Make our app just like the NYT app except cram it full, don’t dare use any editorial staff on it, and I swear-to-god if there’s any white space!”

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