New York Times iPhone App Update Botches Navigation

The recent update to the New York Times iPhone app does its users a real disservice with some disastrous changes to the app’s navigation.

The main flaw in Version 2.2 is the removal the navigation bar and tab bar from the screen once the user scrolls down into the body of the story. In the first image below, the app is seen with all navigation when a story first loads. You just have to scroll down a small amount and the navigation and tab bars disappear, as seen in the second image.

Navigation in Place
Navigation in Place
Navigation Hidden
Navigation Hidden
Full Screen Ad
Full Screen Ad

What? I want my Back button back. Imagine scrolling halfway down into a long story and deciding you want to to the previous screen. There is no way to get back to the headline screen except to the scroll to the top or bottom of the story, which causes the navigation to reappear.

When the tab bar at the bottom disappears it hides the button to email someone a link to the story, the font size controls, and the Save story button.

In the previous version, the navigation and tab bars were always present along with the horizontal ad at the bottom.

The user experience is better in the AP Mobile app, which never removes navigation from the screen.

It may have been that the NY Times designers wanted to offer users a larger area of the screen for reading, but for someone like me who pogo sticks in and out of stories sometimes, this is a major annoyance.

A smaller issue is a full screen ad that comes up when the main screen gets its latest update of headlines, as seen in the third image. While this is intrusive, it’s also somewhat understandable since the battered traditional news media needs to find a new business model that goes beyond just giving their content away for nothing. Because I value the quality of the Times reporting and writing, and it’s free, I don’t mind clicking the Close Ad button and moving on. At least the app’s designers had the good sense to only show one full screen ad per session, which makes the intrusion minimal. Since this is the first news app I’ve seen using full screen ads it will be interesting to see if other apps start doing this.

While I can live with the ads, the change to the navigation scheme is unbelievably bad design. I’m hoping Version 2.3 is coming soon to fix this mess.