Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fewer Features, but Better!

Sometimes I have to wonder what they’re ingesting over at ReadWriteWeb. They’re a constant source of amusement. Today’s example:
Digg released its official iPhone app this morning and in many ways it’s more usable than the website itself. The app is a little buggy, doesn’t allow you to post comments and doesn’t include the video or images section of the site – but it’s still quite good.
In other words, it’s practically featureless, but more usable than the website. Huh? Now, I know, journalistically, you’re supposed to get all the important stuff in the lede. But I’m at a loss to understand how an app with fewer features than the site can be all that handy.

I know, I know. It’s an app. It’s all that. It’s where it is. We’re all supposed to be untethered from our desktops, and all that. I, too, have an iPod Touch (not an iPhone; I don’t need a cell phone, folks) and I use apps. I just started using IMDB’s app just last weekend. It’s okay, but given the limited size of the iPod Touch screen, apps by nature have to be stripped of features we’ve come to accept on the original site. Now, maybe with the iPad, such evolution can continue – but then by golly you’ll see folks just using the original website, which, with the iPad’s larger screen, is easier to use.

Usability, I suppose, is a relative thing. These stripped-down apps may work fine for handheld devices, but are they handier than the real thing – and I feel justified calling the original web sites the real thing because that’s where you get all the features in a legible size that doesn’t require precise finger-poking to work. Is it really that hard to use a desktop for this kind of thing? Do we really need the instant gratification that becoming digital parasites allows us? Well, I guess for some, the answer to that last question is yes. Personally, I like to escape from the web. I like that I don't have a cell phone, and that I can go a weekend without picking up a handheld or even approaching the computer. There's a lot to do out there that doesn't involve ones or zeroes.

Me, I say meh. And I will continue to read ReadWriteWeb, just for the entertainment value.

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