We work with The Economist to develop, support and host an HTML5 based complement to the existing line up of native apps for Economist readers. Demonstrating many of the advanced techniques that went into the FT web app, the Economist app also takes advantage of many of the lessons learned and is some of the best work we’ve ever done.
The app has been launched for PlayBook using the BlackBerry WebWorks framework to enclose the web app with a simple wrapper that enables distribution via App World and an icon on the home screen. It was subsequently released for Windows 8 on the Microsoft App store, for BlackBerry mobile devices, and for the Chrome web browser as a packaged app.
The Economist’s HTML5 powered app provides a great experience to readers on touchscreen devices, by being sensitive and adaptive to the fact that these devices are controlled by touch and have smaller screens than desktop computers. Content is laid out to elegantly fit the screen, and navigation is as intuitive as touching and swiping can be.
We believe that the modern concept of an app is less about technology and more about experience. Something will only feel like an app if it feels intuitive and elegant, like it was designed just for whatever device the reader happens to be using.
The Economist app demonstrates HTML5 implementation techniques including:
- Offline startup and offline reading, using App cache, local storage, and WebSQL
- Audio streaming (including scrubbing directly to any part of a track) via HTML5 audio
- Smooth, momentum scrolling using our own FT scroller
- Horizontally paged column layouts using our own FT Columnflow
- Offline ads and analytics
- Client side integration with social networks for article sharing
- Feature flags for A/B testing and rapid deployment or debugging
- Built-in error detection and cache clearing tools for readers who run into problems
You can experience the app for free, and read up to six articles from each edition. To read the whole of each issue, you’ll need to buy a subscription (which we’d highly recommend). To find out more about the HTML5 development techniques featured in the Economist app, check out our blog, or follow us on twitter.