The great majority of tablet users instinctively swipe horizontally though full screen photo galleries, according to the first findings of Poynter’s research into tablet reading preferences.
The orientation of the tablet device – portrait or landscape – makes little difference, as in landscape users swiped horizontally 93% of the time, while in portrait the equivalent number was 82%. This, the researchers concluded, signalled that there is an overall inclination to swipe horizontally.
The first results of the “EyeTrack: Tablet” project were reported today, and unlike with the previous studies where the overall findings were published at the end of the project, the on-going project will publish its results on a regular basis, said Mario García, who is part of the research team and a renown tablet app and media project designer himself.
Poynter has produced studies on how readers view news since 1990, when the researchers examined how people read news in print. Now, such knowledge is perhaps more crucial than ever: although newspapers and magazines have increasingly ventured into tablet publishing, definite knowledge of readers’ preferences and instincts is still lacking. With more information about how readers approach news on new platforms, designers will be able to create more intuitive and approachable – and ultimately more successful – news apps.
The preference for horizontal swiping was expected by the researchers, and the first set of tests confirmed this instinct. Moreover, this information will inform the later parts of the research, allowing the research team to design its prototype test apps more aptly. Some of the test prototypes are displayed on Mario García’s website.
Poynter says that the research process will be broken into individual questions, allowing the testing of small elements of behaviour that can be made public once the results are analysed: “The process is painstaking, but it’s better to get specific information sooner, rather than later.” The tested designs are based on research and on what is currently being tried in digital publishing.
This is why the direction of swiping was tested: already most tablet publications navigate horizontally between stories and vertically through them. However, most photo galleries are navigated horizontally through a singe topic, García noted. In the light of the research’s findings, this seems the best way to go about it.
The research team is currently looking for 20–30 stories that exemplify storytelling in a variety of forms for tablet to be included in the prototype testing. News app designers would do well to pay close attention to the eventual results, as they will surely offer solid information on how to create appealing digital publications that will entice also less high-tech oriented news consumers into tablet reading.
On a related note, News Corporation’s The Daily, possibly the most high-profile tablet news publication to date, has launched an iPhone version of its iPad app, paidContent reported.
Sources: Poynter (1), (2), García Media, paidContent