What's the best UI for a news reading app?

The recent eyetracking study by Poytner that we covered in our previous post explored this question by examining user preferences. There’s no question as a user yourself, you likely have your own preferences in the way you organize and interact with your tablet.

The best part about customizing your tablet is that tablets are still relatively new and as such, developers are still finding new and exciting ways for better and more interesting tablet interaction.

Even the best index homepage is still not good enough

In addition to the distinct reading preferences, the Poytner study also found that users had a distinct preference for their news homepage design. Poytner presented participants with three choices: a traditional layout, tile mode with pictures only, and carousel mode with both pictures and headlines, each offering their own engagement interface.

Some apps take on the carousel design but most participants, 83%, said the traditional design was most similar to what they regularly use. Surprisingly, half of all participants preferred the carousel design that allowed users to scroll through multiple and continuous streams of teasers.

But why did so many participants prefer the carousel design?


Graph courtesy of The Poytner Institute


Some participants reported that they were more gravitated towards the carousel mode because it resembled a photo album and its layout presented more choices within the viewing field.

The presentation of more choices only resulted in more time choosing and less time reading. This is supported by the fact that on average, participants browsed 18 items before selecting a story to read.

This is a clear indicator that the preferred reader choice may not be the best UI. The carousel mode is either presenting its content poorly or presenting the wrong content for the user hence the excessive browsing.

SmartFlow is a right alternative to the homepage paradigm

Another important feature of the homepage designs is that all modes presented news in a way similar to that of a news website, where headlines and news content are loaded to a new page. This brings you to a different space and layout separate from the original homepage design.

But ultimately what this paradigm does is perpetuate the problem of, again, too many choices and too much time spent choosing.

This kind of paradigm has been around for what seems like ages. We’re accustomed, it feels more natural so that’s another reason why we can assume users preferred it.

We also believe participants chose carousel mode only because they were limited to only three UIs, all of which which were all based on the homepage index model and sadly, was essentially just the best of the three poor UIs.

PressReader’s SmartFlow mode actually breaks free from this paradigm and does the opposite. By itself, the homepage index model doesn’t fit the needs of a tablet user which is why we discarded this paradigm in SmartFlow in favor of continuous article flow.

SmartFlow is designed to highlight quality in news stories with better presentation that expands articles in place without inconveniencing you to to jump to another page. This essentially allows you to spend less time choosing and more time reading your favourite news.

And when you’re done with one story, SmartFlow mode allows you to just continue scrolling to the next story without having to jump back between homepage and the next story. The movements and gestures in SmartFlow feel more natural for touch interfaces than do pointing and clicking, thus sliding to the next article in continuous flow is more natural on touch devices as than clicking in the homepage index model.

Gestures and movements in SmartFlow feel more natural for touch interfaces than pointing and clicking, thus sliding to the next articles in continuous flow is more natural on touch devices as than clicking in index.


Articles in SmartFlow mode expand in place.

To help us better understand how our readers interact with the their news, we want to ask you one question: