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Another iPad media app disappointment - Zite

I had a very brief Twitter conversation yesterday with two members of the Zite team.Zite iPad

I had read a Fast Company article that extols the virtue of Zite as a smarter, personalizing experience - whatever that means. They also say it challenges Flipboard, which for me, from my own personal user-centric POV, is no great feat. The Tweet conversation had sprung up, I believe, around my asking the standard question that I always ask when I hear about a new media or news iPad app - what problem does it solve?

I've written about iPad app usability issues before - for instance, how media publishers get it wrong, how a rock band schooled Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson and their respective The Daily and Project Magazine apps.

I downloaded Zite last night with much trepidation because the folks behind Zite call it "A personalized iPad magazine." Magazine! Why, oh, why?? If you look up the definition of a magazine, the first sentence you find goes like this - "a periodic publication containing pictures and stories and articles of interest to those who purchase it or subscribe to it; "it takes several years before a magazine starts to break even or make money." Might not want to be associated with that..

Anyway, here's the inaugural visit by yours truly.. there is very little audio except when I get stumped by the app.

What happened as I tried to use the app, happens far too often. If I'm asked to choose to enter my Twitter handle I expect results, as Zite no doubt now has my Twitter account details. The message "We aren't able to find enough about you from Twitter," leaves me with a sense of frustration backed up by despair...am I a failure or is Twitter? When asked to choose a topic of interest, I chose Arts & Culture, and then you'll see that I pause, then I try again because the navigation doesn't clearly show me how to continue. You'll see that I play with the "swipe" button, rather inconveniently placed in the bottom right corner. Two swipes of that and then I find a "done" button.

After 3 minutes or more, (I edited the video down to 2 mins,) I end up with an error message and a "Please follow us on Twitter" message. So my question is - if the Zite app is not ready for primetime, why launch it? I'm a huge fan of testing and analyzing after a launch of a product, App or software etc, but not at the expense of user experience.

To sum up - Unfortunately, I was deflated as usual but Zite isn't as bad as some apps that I've been exposed to. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt as there's room for imrpovement but I can't forgive them for my initial UX/UI frustrations or for calling it a "magazine.."

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