The innovative online publication Quartz, owned by Atlantic Media Co., the publisher of The Atlantic among others, has released its first mobile app (iOS only for now). This app does not try to reproduce the website. Instead it goes for a chat-like interface and UX.
It’s an ongoing conversation about the news, sort of like texting: We’ll send you messages, photos, GIFs, and links, and you can tap to respond when you’re interested in learning more about a topic. Each session lasts just a few minutes, so it’s perfect for the train, elevator, grocery store line, or wherever you have a spare moment to catch up on the news.
There is also a sensible approach to notifications, going with different classes of interuption:
Some of our messages will also reach you through fun and relevant notifications throughout the day. You can pick what you want: haikus about how the stock market is performing, important developments in the global economy, etc. These are notifications you will actually enjoy receiving. And we won’t buzz you unless it’s really important; most alerts will just quietly light up your phone.
There is more to the app, but the point is this: It genuinely tries to create a media offering for the smartphone context. And, secondly, the chat UI makes this very future proof. Most of what Quartz built for its app can easily be ported to, say, a chat platform like WeChat, Snapchat or Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. It can also be fed into a voice interface like Amazon Alexa.
The app is not the end point but a starting point.
Now, this doesn’t mean online retailers should build apps with a chat UI. (Although it would make sense for Outfittery and Zalando’s Zalon to provide richer interfaces molded to serve those very use cases, for example)
But Quartz’s app shows how you can conceptually start a new way of approaching the job you are doing for your customers whilst also opening up all kinds of options for the future.
We talked about how conversational interfaces can enrichen e-commerce and where the sweet spot for conversational commerce may lie. But again, the main aspect to learn form Quartz is not the conversational approach but the strategy behind it.
For more inspiration on mobile interfaces from Asia and more read Dan Grover:
Long a feature of the PhpBB-style forums of my youth, then promptly dispensed with once the “social web” properly took off in the mid-aughts, user ranks are quite common in Chinese apps. In social apps, they’re a 等级 (děngjí, grade) while in e-commerce apps, they’re points 积分 (jīfēn, points). They’re denoted next to one’s profile name as a series of badges, or as a special border on one’s avatar.