Nature Mobile iPad apps: Birds and Horses

May 03, 2011

I had an opportunity to take a look at some Nature Mobile apps, specifically Birds and Horses on iPad. I always like to check out new ways to learn about fun topics on the iPad, and new ways the device can be used to browse information. Recently, a bunch of good apps like Al Gore’s Our Choice have come out. Let’s see what these two are about then.

General look’n’feel

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They are basically bird/horse encyclopaedias, with a game to test your knowledge. I am not really a bird or horse expert, so I did not spend much time with the game.

The layout is quite stylized and textured, with a rough field notebook-like leather texture for containers. Quite well and professionally produced, couldn’t spot any immediate big flaws or annoyances. It is designed for both portrait and landscape layouts, though it works much better in landscape. The portrait requires you to tap a control to access the main browsing list, whereas it’s always available in landscape.

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I couldn’t quite understand what’s the purpose of the default bird picture. I guess it’s just a placeholder to fill the screen until you open an article. You can set your own picture too.

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The article view is a collection of professionally produced and edited beautiful photos about the bird, some basic text, and a Wikipedia link. There’s also bird sounds (quite important for birds) and you can add your own notes. I always get upset where I see poorly produced and edited imagery, but it’s not the case here, it all feels quite nice and professional.

You can see there’s a bit of a rotation bug here. In portrait, the sound list sometimes becomes attached to the wrong UI element.

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An interesting UI idea is the filtering across various dimensions. You can see which categories have a filter set for them, and can mix and match these filters as you like. My only concern for these filters is usability for children. I’m not sure if that’s who is the user for these apps, but this filter stuff is something that requires quite some thinking to figure out. It works well, but is not immediately obvious.

The Horses app is very similar, so I’m not discussing it in more detail. You can see that the styling is somewhat different, but the UI is very similar. Except that you can’t listen to horse sounds. I guess that’s not that important for horses.

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