Thursday, 24 November 2011

Architecture News on your iPhone - BD app

Mobile devices have become the first stop shop for news and information. It is, as a platform constantly available and always updated in real time taking the promis of any news to the limit, to actually getting the latest news.

There are different approaches to news delivery on the devices. On one hand there are the news readers and the news curators, apps that allow the reader to brows the news from different sources in an general environment, often offering the option to link to many online sources including social media. This type like Flipboard or Flud are very popular and flexible.

Image by Ralph Barthel for urbanTick / Architect's news on the iPhone provided by BD.

The second approach on the other hand is for each news provider to launch their individual corporate news app. It is very dedicated and the provider has a complete controle over the way each information reaches the reader.

This second option is being offered by a lot of newspapers. However, most of them can also be integrated with other readers as they offer general webnews that the curator apps can integrate. One of the key factors of course is not only to let readers read and enjoy, but to also let them share. They want to show of what they are reading in order to stay in the game of social media and feed their Twitter, Facebook and so on accounts.

Architecture news so far have mainly been using their blogs to keep news uptodate and allow readers to integrate a feed with their favourite curator app. Things are changing and Architecture News sites also begin to offer their dedicated mobile app for readers to enjoy the freshest and crispiest news in the filed of architecture and planning.

Image taken from BD iPhone app / Screenshot of the app news section with sharing options.

Building Design (BD), the British architecture news platform, is the first one here in the UK to offer an app for the iPhone. It was launched only this week and provides complete access from your iPhone to all the content on BD. Of course the main fous is on the latest news in various categories.

The initial view is organised in Top Stories, News, Buildings, Opinions and under More you can find the rest. Well the rest contains Competitions, Events, App Showcase (nothing there yet, but presumably this is for architecture related apps) and Jobs. This is actually quite an interesting selection and for the filed will be essential. This is what makes a good architecture news platform, where you get profession related inside information that are practical. Any other building news you can find on the blog sphere in a range of formats and versions.

Image taken from BD iPhone app / Screenshot of the in app photo viewer. With a single tap on the screen the images can be enjoyed full screen text free (bottom right).

The BD app is neat and plain providing the essential options, such as changing the font size and marking an article as a favourite which can be reinterpreted by the users as an I read it later button. It also provides a neat feature to view the article related photos and illustrations in a separate window. This makes the text simpler to read on the small screen and can make use of the full size of the screen for the photos. Its great to see that BD here still keeps the figure description with the photos so that they don't float uncommented. The second good implementation is the sharing function. Articles can be shared via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter directly, plus the link to the article can be copied and shared otherwise. So there is no excuse not to let your networks now about the discoveries and latest knowledge acquisition, it works great.

It is debatable whether the categories on the start screen are the best choice and it would also be interesting if in article switching would be possible. Currently the app is organised centrally from one screen where the user can generally go in to depth only one step. Other newspaper apps such as the guardian version for the iPad from the Apple Newsstand, the user can flip pages and go through article by article whit out having to go back to the startpage. For illustrations especially plans and drawings it would be nice to be able to zoom in ont he little iPhone screen. In this context of course it would be great to see them articles and the photos on an iPad screen.

What is missing from the app is a search button. There is no way to find something its purely on an I came across it at the top of the list basis, which leaves the reader to be a playball of the refreshing moment. Real time as it turns out has its downside and you can be sure you miss out on a lot of the interesting stuff simply because your a moment to early or too late. Very quickly news are going to be buried under the flood of even latter news and the small iPhone screen is not the place one scrolls for minutes to go through the list of latest news.

BD in this respect has limited the list of news items the app displays to about 25 and offer at the bottom of all them two filters. One being UK and the second being International. However, here the website offers a lot more options, including the search function.

The app does not replace the BD website in this sense, it is a sort of news outpost for the platform to keep the users entertained while they have some time to kill. With the More option however, there are some features that can take you further. And of course it is to mention that the app comes add free, the latest architecture news can be enjoyed uninterrupted by tempting offers for building materials or architecture software.

The app comes at an subscription cost of £1.99 for 7 days (1 week) and £2.99 for 30 days (1 month) just like the web service of BD. However currently the app is offered for a 30 day FREE trial so its best you have a look yourself and try take it for a test scroll. The app can be downloaded from the app Store HERE.

Image taken from BD online / Screenshot of the online web site.

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