Hi, I’m Euan Adie, I work for Nature Publishing Group and this is what we’ve been doing on iOS – that’s iPhone and iPad devices.
Quick context – why are we doing things on mobile anyway? Because we want to build more personal relationships with readers, and mobiles are about as personal a platform as you can get.
Why iOS? Because it’s widely adopted and allows us to deliver a good user experience.
Here’s our iPhone app. It has been out since February. We’ve had around 70k downloads since then. Everybody who uses the app has created a nature.com account.
The basic idea is that you tell the app what you’re interested in – search terms and journals – and then it updates this date ordered list that you see every time you start the app. We show articles from the past 30 days or so.
Right now we use the app to deliver full-text articles from eight different journals. We thought at first that it’s only really be used to read newsy content, but actually that doesn’t seem to be the case. People use it to read longer research articles too. The average time spent reading an article is ~ 2 ½ mins.
We created a UI that helped users read scientific content effectively on a small screen. For example, references slide in over the text when you tap a citation. You can skip to the actual paper being cited and then press a “Back” button to get back to the article.
Figures also open in a new view. We integrate with the iPhone’s capabilities so that you can save the figure to the Photos app, copy the caption etc. We do the same thing for tables and sidebars in the news content.
Nature.com’s mission is to bring users the best scientific content from NPG & beyond – so we added save searches over PubMed and arXiv. Any new results from your searches get added to the list of articles on the main screen.
Brief aside - it’s a fallacy that being in the App Store will help users find your app. If you’re not in the top 100 apps you’re only findable by search. Apple don’t let you know how many people view app info pages but don’t install.
In April the iPad got announced. It felt like a big thing. We figured that it’d be relatively straightforward to port the iPhone app onto the iPad.
It turned out to be harder than expected, not least because nobody knew all the gotchas in the new iOS 3.2 platform. We had a couple of false starts.
While we were working on a reader app, though, we experimented with InDesign based layouts in a one-off Human Genome Special. It did pretty well too, especially given the relatively small installed base. It got editors thinking about what we could be doing on the iPad in the future.
Here’s the iPad app. While it’s starting up you see a short video clip from recent papers in the journals available through the app.
You can see it’s conceptually similar to the iPhone app. It has pretty much the same feature set. There’s a customizable sidebar to the left – this lists the journals that the user has chosen to have included. The right hand side shows articles from the selected journal and you can filter that by article type (and subject, in the future)
We’d optimized the way that articles looked for the iPhone so had to go back and work out how to best make use of the iPad’s bigger screen.
Again, figures open up in a new view. On the iPad there’s enough room to display the caption as a transparent overlay and you don’t need to zoom so much to see the labels on graphs, and full colour figures look great.
We use popups to show information about references instead of bringing in a whole new screen. You can still visit the actual cited paper within the app.
The app renders HTML5 & CSS rather than any flat image based formats, so we can start add any off the shelf interactivity we like to articles. We can also include dynamically updating elements.
Mobile subs We sell a mobile-only subscription through the app. They’re lower cost than a full sub - ~ $79 for a year’s worth of Nature, or $9.99 a month. We’re experimenting with the price point. Uptake has been better than expected – but it’s not a significant revenue generator.
Marketing the app <ul><li>If you’re not in the top 100, the App Store doesn’t really help discoverability </li></ul><ul><li>Apple don’t give you conversion rates </li></ul>