Publish your own magazine with Coverstory Casual
Coverstory’s stated aim is to allow users to create their own “magazine-style journals” of their experiences using photos, text, video and content clipped from the Web and then share these other journals with friends and family online.
Coverstory requires an Internet connection to use. Assuming the user has one, the app opens after a rather lengthy initial loading time and displays a default file featuring sample content and links to begin creating a magazine with one of several themes. Once into the app proper, the user is then presented with a very minimalist interface — tiny dots on three sides of the screen, and a big “add” icon in the center.
Adding a new page to the magazine requires the user tap on the dot at the bottom of the screen, which brings up the available page layouts. These can be added to the magazine by dragging them from the pop-up toolbar to the available space. Depending on what type of page they are, then can then be customized by tapping and holding on photos to apply filters or replace the default images; tapping and holding on text boxes to replace the default text; or tapping and holding on a small dot in the center of the screen to add YouTube/Vimeo videos or clippings from the Web. Navigating the magazine is handled by swiping to the left and right.
The dot on the right side of the screen pops up the app’s main menu, from which a number of functions can be accessed, including creating a new magazine, saving it, drawing freehand pictures using a variety of different colors, reducing the file size or sharing it with others either as a preview image or an attachment that can be opened on another iOS device. The dot on the left side of the screen, meanwhile, brings up a magnifying loupe that allows the magazine to be viewed in greater detail. This also allows readers of a magazine to appreciate the finer details in high-quality photographs.
At heart, Coverstory is a good idea, and the layouts it produces look very nice on iOS devices. The app just has too many problems to ignore, though — starting with the fact that there’s no way of exporting the finished product to anything other than a proprietary format that can only be viewed on iOS devices. There’s no means of turning it into a PDF for recipients to view on their computer, for example, and it would seem like an ideal opportunity for monetization to offer some sort of professional print service, similar to what Apple offers with the OS X version of iPhoto. No, instead the only options immediately apparent are to post an image on Facebook or Twitter, email the front page image to someone, or email a proprietary compressed version of the full magazine (inaccurately labelled “zip” in the menu) to another iOS user.
Then there’s the interface. As fashionable as minimalist interfaces are, Coverstory Casual takes things much too far with unintuitive gestures, tiny buttons that are nigh-impossible to tap on and a complete lack of feedback to user input. Not only that, but the iconography used in some of the menus is just bewildering — to go “back” through the previous menu options, the user must tap on a button with the number “1″ marked on it which, more often than not, isn’t visible on screen by default and requires “spinning” the menu to bring it into view. It’s also very difficult to figure out how to dismiss certain modes such as the freehand drawing mode — I ended up scribbling all over a magazine page in an attempt to switch my brightly-colored pen off, and there didn’t seem to be a convenient undo facility to remove my inadvertent defacement. These problems are all compounded further by the fact that there’s no help file, and the only “tutorial” offered by the developers is a completely wordless video that doesn’t actually explain how the app works, it simply shows someone else using it.
On the whole then, Coverstory Casual is a very nice idea executed rather poorly. There’s a lot of potential here for sure, but the developers need to completely rethink their interface and attitude towards providing help to the user in particular before this app is worthy of recommendation. They should also look at alternative means of sharing the finished product to cater to those who do not have iOS devices. For now, this is one to keep an eye on from a distance to see if the developers improve matters in subsequent updates.
You can follow Coverstory Casual’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.