I’ve finally got around to trying The Guardian’s digital edition and I’ve got to tell you it is absolutely brilliant. In fact, I think it might be the first proper innovation in online newspapers since – ooh – well, the web I suppose (is that overdoing it? Can you think of anything else?).
It sounds like it shouldn’t work: shrunken JPEG facsimiles of every page in the print edition with simple left-to-right navigation and headlines pulled out and presented to the right. Clicking on a headline or on a story from within the page itself loads the text of the story which you can, of course, cut-and-paste or print. Not a plug-in or frame or gnarly proprietary doodad in sight.
It’s all in the execution, though – it’s just seriously slick and satisfying. There really is hardly a wrinkle in the UI – and there’s presumably some pretty heavy-duty inegration with production systems humming away under the hood – not bad for a beta. Everything works as it should. The structure of the physical newspaper is retained and, to my surprise, really works online. It makes ft.com look bloated and inaccessible and the other UK papers are obviously years behind. I think this is the first online paper that might actually persuade me to stop getting the print edition. Simon Waldman, Emily Bell and their team should be proud of themselves (Emily Bell, editor in chief of Guardian Unlimited, writes about their plans for the product, pricing etc. here).