This new webified version of Flipboard is the long-delayed fulfillment of a journey that goes back to the company’s birth before it launched on the iPad in 2010.
“Very, very early on, when we were first thinking about Flipboard, we thought about doing it on the web, and then later we started hearing these rumors about the iPad, and we thought okay, the iPad is really the ultimate place for us to start. We really believe, obviously, that mobile is ultimately where everything is headed. But we started to realize that having Flipboard on the desktop is important to complete the whole loop.” McCue says.
In a way, though, it was just as well that the company pressed pause on the web version for so long. Earlier browsers could never have handled the demands of something like Flipboard, which interleaves text and visual elements with a high degree of polish and fluidity.
“It’s a huge challenge frankly, I don’t think this was even possible to do in 2010 when we were first building Flipboard. HTML5 was not at that point, browsers were not at that point. And the rendering engines on the computers were not.” McCue says.
Even with today’s technologies in its toolkit, it wasn’t immediately obvious what the new browser-based version of Flipboard should be. “We didn’t want to try to make the web into something that it isn’t, we wanted to advance what we could do on the web, but not try to make the web feel like a mobile app,” McCue says.
At first blush, the design that the company came up with looks a little like Pinterest or Tumblr: Every story is boxed off, with a snippet of text, a link, and (where available) an image. But the more examine the layouts the more subtleties spot. Different stories are presented in different sizes, from small and unassuming to big, bold, and beautiful.
Though this presentation is much less literally magazine-like than earlier iterations of Flipboard for tablets and phones, it still aims to weave words and images together in a way that draws the eye to the most significant items and avoids visual monotony, giving it a spiritual kinship with the goals of print magazines.