Saturday, 20 May 2017

What has The Economist done to its app?

The Economist’s print edition has a long tradition of careful design – from its carefully imposed house style to the presentation of its maps and graphs. It has worked with designers such as Eiichi Kono, Aurobind Patel, and Meta Design. So when it promises an app update, you think that, although the current version reads perfectly well, that something even better will replace it.

Unfortunately, version 4.0.8 is a disaster.

Screen shot from The Economist 4.0.8

Click here for full-size image

It replaces a multicolumn news magazine look and feel with a generic web page presentation from 10 (20?) years ago – down to the centred images. All credit to the desire to create an uncluttered, distraction-free page, but the overall mise-en-page and the typography are miserable. The Milo Serif font is too light, too widely character spaced, and too closely line spaced for the (fixed) column width. The vertical spaces between paragraphs are too large. There is no option to increase the line spacing – enlarging the font size does not change the size/line feed relationship.

There is no option to change the column width. The same column width is used for portrait and landscape pages. This is the clumsiest piece of app typography I have seen for some time – so here is a plea to The Economist take a leaf out of the Guardian, Le Monde, or NYT apps, below, which all have excellent font weight/size/line feed/column width relationships, and make the newspaper readable on the iPad again.