Former New York Times Web-Design Director Khoi Vinh Is Not a Fan of Magazines' iPad Apps

Khoi Vinh, the former Web-design director for The New York Times, is not a fan of most magazines’ iPad apps, calling them “bloated” and “user-unfriendly.”

Vinh goes into painstaking detail on his blog,, and here are some highlights, but the entire piece is recommended reading:

To start, I think it’s too early to say anything definitive about whether these apps will become lasting delivery mechanisms for print content and brands. There’s still a lot that we don’t know about the iPad and its forthcoming competition, particularly about how user behavior will evolve as these devices become more integrated into daily life. So while I may use some definitive language in this admittedly very long blog post, I freely grant that the future is a mystery to me as much as anyone.

My opinion about iPad-based magazines is that they run counter to how people use tablets today and, unless something changes, will remain at odds with the way people will use tablets as the medium matures. They’re bloated, user-unfriendly, and map to a tired pattern of mass-media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all.

The fact of the matter is that the mode of reading that a magazine represents is a mode that people are decreasingly interested in, that is making less and less sense as we forge further into this century, and that makes almost no sense on a tablet. As usual, these publishers require users to dive into environments that only negligibly acknowledge the world outside of their brand, if at all — a problem that’s abetted and exacerbated by the full-screen, single-window posture of all iPad software. In a media world that looks increasingly like the busy downtown heart of a city — with innumerable activities, events, and alternative sources of distraction around you — these apps demand that you confine yourself to a remote, suburban cul-de-sac.

Take the recent release of the iPad app version of The New Yorker. Please. I downloaded an issue a few weeks ago and greatly enjoyed every single word of every article that I read (whatever the product experience, the journalism remains a notch above). But I hated everything else about it: It took way too long to download, cost me $4.99 over and above the annual subscription fee that I already pay for the print edition, and, as a content experience, was an impediment to my normal content-consumption habits. I couldn’t email, blog, Tweet, or quote from the app, to say nothing of linking away to other sources — for magazine apps like these, the world outside is just a rumor to be denied. And when I plugged my iPad back into my Mac, the enormous digital heft of these magazines brought the synching process to a crawl.