Flipping out over social magazine reader's web debut
Flipboard may be a mobile-first app (it was originally built for the iPad) but that hasn't stopped it bringing its social magazine reader to the web (technically this is its second attempt at the endeavor).
Why, when many news sites and social networks are focusing on developing their mobile apps, would Flipboard decide to put serious effort into introducing a web version? Maybe because the company recognizes the importance of reaching the legions of PC users that sit at their computer every day.
Scroll, scroll and scroll some more
Flipboard for the web should really be renamed "Scrollboard" because - as you might have guessed - you scroll rather than flip (as you do on the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone versions) through the social magazine reader. If you're not familiar with Flipboard, the app imports content from many different sources and brings it together into a digestible online "magazine" where you can browse different articles then share via social media, like or add to a particular magazine that you have created.
In general, this web version is a very different beast from its mobile counterparts. The neat thing is that Flipboard has put serious thought into building a web app that takes into account the way people browse when they're using a computer. As well as the scrolling interface, your interactions are triggered by the way you use a mouse - for example, hover over a word to like, flip, or share via other social networks.
With the web app organized into "cover stories", "following", and "explore", the concept (but not the layout) bears a resemblance to Twitter, albeit a more visually attractive and easier to navigate version. It works in a similar way to the social network in that you can like (think favorite) and flip (think retweet) others' content, although there doesn't seem to be an option to comment meaning Flipboard is lacking the ability to start conversations. It would also be useful if the "following" option displayed the stories that had been shared by those people you follow rather than just a list of the users and publications.
The way Flipboard recommends content for you according to your interests makes its content curation feature a real highlight. With its acquisition of Zite, its algorithms for personalizing your content and its ability to find unique articles you wouldn't otherwise stumble upon, are likely to get even stronger.
Eye catching layout
Flipboard's arrangement on the page is both eye catching and easy to consume. Stories are mostly arranged into bite-sized square chunks that are easy on the eye, with attention drawn to more important stories by displaying them across the whole width of the screen. The more you scroll, the more stories appear. The page is nicely broken up by other content (such as people and topics you are following) and incorporates responsive web design, meaning its layout is optimized for all screen sizes.
When you click on a link, it automatically opens in a new tab meaning that you can continue to browse for more content before reading the article in question. This is in contrast to the mobile apps, which display articles in a magazine-like format, but reflects the reading habits of people on the web.
The content is also synced to your account, so no matter what you device you use it will always be available.
Tailored to the web
Flipboard's efforts to bring the hugely popular mobile app to the desktop have paid off. And the reason for this? A real focus on the way users interact with and want to view content on a PC compared to their mobile devices. This means that the Flipboard experience on the web does differ greatly from when you use the mobile apps, but in a good way.
One other point in its favor is that it currently has no adverts or promoted articles, so you can enjoy great content without being bothered by the sales pitch. Great job Flipboard.