Project Train wreck: Virgin’s new magazine app is crap

If the instructions for your magazine app looks like this, you shouldn’t call it a magazine.

Peter Kafka of All Things D has this to say about Project, “the revolutionary magazine built for iPad:

“It’s pretty similar to most of the other iPad magazine apps you’ve seen so far. Except more confusing–the navigation on all of these things changes from app to app, but this one seems even more random.”

That was nice, compared to Robert Andrews of, after it took him 2 1/2 hours to download the app.):

“Project‘s UI is all over the place.”

Unfortunately, I can’t judge for myself because, like Robert, I can’t get the current issue to download. Well, I take that back: I got it to download, but then it wouldn’t work. That’s never happened before with any app.

As I’ve been saying since nearly the first day I saw something called a “magazine app” on an iPad, “Why, oh why, do the designers of iPad “magazine” apps think their job involves ignoring the way people have learned to interact with technology over the past 30 years? Why do they ignore three decades of user-interface conventions? Why do they park common sense at the door of their studio? Why do they completely waste an opportunity to do something great and truly revolutionary — and choose instead to be self-indulgent and hostile to their user?

And why do their backers then call the resulting crap “a magazine app”?

I knew magazines. Magazines were friends of mine. Project Magazine, you’re no magazine.

Here’s a suggestion, if you call something a “magazine,” maybe you can imagine (try very, very hard) that some people are attracted to magazines because they want to “read.” If you’re creating something for viewers or listeners or players, maybe use another metaphor than magazine — maybe call it a “media noise-maker app,” if all it does is package up bells and whistles.

Rather than continue this rant, I’ll point to last month’s post by designer-extraordinaire Khoi Vihn, an essay that has become a must-read on the topic of “magazine app” design.

I believe the iPad offers an incredible opportunity to magazine publishers, and would-be publishers. I just don’t think that opportunity has anything to do with what Project is trying to do.

Update: I give. For the second time, after and hour-long download, this is what happened…