Lipstick Wikipedia: Articles for iPhone

You already know Articles is a good looking app, we reviewed it on SA, and have probably even bought it by now. But Brandon had a different take on its user interface, which I thought was fitting for a discussion on Beautiful Pixels. I’ll be leaving my comments, in the comments. – Ed

I’ve had mixed feelings about Sophiestication’s software in the past. The look of Groceries was great, but certain design choices never made sense. I hate wood grain backgrounds and fonts that are supposed to look handwritten. The shade of blue used for the buttons popped way too much. And the icon never looked right. I liked the direction it was going in, but it just wasn’t right. Having multiple soup cans in this tiny icon felt crowded and awkward. There were major useability issues too. The app had a ridiculous number of branded food products, but it left out things like bacon at launch. And the one that I never got was, when you wanted something, it made the most sense to just search for it, not go through aisle by aisle and select stuff. So why did the cursor not jump to the search field when you tapped the add item button? That seemed like the obvious behavior to go with. But overall, it was the best looking shopping app in the App Store.

Now here we are a year later, and the next app is the best looking Wikipedia app on iPhone. It’s called Articles. You’ve probably read Milind’s review or seen the overflow of Twitter spam that’s been solicited. There’s been a lot of praise for Articles, and I have some for it as well. The menu bezel is perfect. I love how thin it is, and the color is a cool gray. It feels fast and extremely smooth when moving around in the app. But the font is a little too dainty, and the shade of blue used for the progress bar feels more Jaguat than Snow Leopard. It didn’t dawn on me until I started writing this, but I know why it feels strange. It’s made by a woman. Now hear me out before you start denouncing me as a sexist pig. I do idolize Al Bundy, but I can admit that he was a flawed man. But truth be told, Groceries and Articles feel feminine. Where Tapbots’ apps feel heavy and more masculine, Sophiestication’s are painted with a finer pointed brush and a more pastel color scheme. This isn’t a bad thing, but I understand why I had mixed feelings about certain appearance choices that were made. I think being able to choose from a selection of fonts and adjust the size would make me much happier.

All that said, Articles is a great app. It’s fast and smooth. The Safari-like tabbed browsing is great for keeping lots of articles up and quickly accessible. You can save and copy photos from articles for use elsewhere. You can pull up articles about nearby places using GPS (Didnt work so well in Japan; just got a lot of articles about cities, not specific landmarks.) You can double tap and hold down to go into index mode, where you can scroll through chapter headings. There is no way however to just pull up a list of chapters. I miss it dearly.

If you click on a link to a non-Wikipedia page it’ll open up an in-app browser, but I wish the “jump to” menu had a mail link or add to Instapaper option. And when searching, you can search by title or content. Changing languages is done by hitting a button on the right. That’ll pull up a list of languages that’s needlessly crowded. There’s no reason the app needs to separate languages by how many articles are available in each language. It’s a waste of space. I wish I could just turn off languages I don’t need. Or at the very least, the app could remember recently used languages and keep them at the top. Hell, put them in the chapter headings list. It makes me think of the search bar in Groceries. It’s a useability thing that was ignored for appearance’s sake. And lastly, I just wish there was a way to switch languages on the article currently being read. I used that in Wikiamo all the time to compare names of things in English and Japanese. I’m told it was a much requested feature, but I guess the developer didn’t think it warranted waiting to release the app in order to add it. It’s not going to affect most people, but it’s a huge deal for me.

Oh, and one more thing… that drawer icon is this app’s soup can.

Like I said before, you probably made up your mind about this app already, but I wanted to say my piece. I think because the developer and the development company are one in the same, people don’t want to be too critical. Nobody wants to badmouth a good looking woman, and saying Sophiestication might as well be saying just “Sophia.” So for the umpteenth time, I’ll be the bad guy.

Do you need Articles? No. Wikiamo is free and does a fine job. But if you’re looking for a more polished UI, Articles will provide you with one. I hope the few features mentioned above are added in the future, but if you use Wikipedia a lot and like pretty software, $2.99‘s a drop in the bucket.

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