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Last week the Guardian released several new upgrades for its already excellent Android app.
The Guardian said that the focus has been on bringing the app up to the higher standards that you find in modern Android app and to offer users a “better, more consistent user experience.”
I already use The Guardian’s app on a daily basis and find it a joy to use. In contrast, I also use Sky Sports News’ app every day but find the user experience to be quite poor.
As such, I thought I’d take a look at the new updates to The Guardian’s app and compare it to the UX of the Sky Sports News offering.
The Guardian’s app was already one of my favourites prior to the upgrades, and the new features show how important mobile is to the business.
Clearly the developers place great emphasis on making these apps fun and easy to use, which in turn improves the user’s perception of the brand.
The largest change is a new action bar that gives access to functions such as refresh, share, edit and favourite.
There is also a new ‘g’ logo at the top of the screen that works as a secondary back button and a ‘Related section’ tab that gives access to topics and sections that may be of interest.
While these may appear to be minor changes, they are useful upgrades to what was already an excellent app.
The user can totally personalise the homepage so they only see the most relevant sections and you can also save both topics and reporters into a dedicated ‘Favourites’ tab.
Furthermore the ‘Settings’ tab gives several options for download frequency, offline reading and image options. Sharing articles is also a doddle and takes just three clicks, which no doubt drives a huge amount of social traffic for The Guardian’s website.
Overall the UX is fantastic and delivers a personalised mobile experience that other apps should strive to emulate.
According to data published last week, the average Sky customer pays £550 for its services each year, but it doesn’t seem that much of that money is invested into its Android app.
While it’s not a dreadful app, there are several usability issues that mean it pales in comparison to The Guardian.
The most glaring omission is the lack of any social sharing buttons. The Guardian has proved that social is a hugely important traffic driver for news sites, so it’s odd that Sky Sports makes it so difficult to share its content.
The Sky Sports News desktop site has sharing buttons for Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, so why not add them to the Android app?
Another issue is the lack of any personalisation options. All users view the same homepage and the ‘Settings’ tab just lets you select how often the data refreshes.
There is only one button at the top of the screen, which gives access to nine different sport categories. This is a useful tool, but if you click into it then use your phone’s back button to get back to the homepage the app closes. Hardly the most user-friendly navigation.
Also the sections aren’t consistent. For example, the football and cricket sections have six tabs that include information on fixtures, results and league tables.
However the rugby categories just have ‘News’ and ‘Live on Sky’ tabs.
Sky Sports News and The Guardian obviously have extremely different business models, which means that they have different objectives for their mobile apps.
The Guardian gives away all its content for free so it has to make its apps fun to use so consumers want to keep coming back and sharing its content.
In contrast Sky’s revenue comes from subscriptions to its TV channels so the Android app is more of an add-on just to give it a mobile presence.
But even so, the lack of any sharing or personalisation options on the Sky Sports News app is remarkable and seems like a missed opportunity as it’s a great way of building brand affinity.
I had never really read The Guardian prior to downloading it Android app, but now I consume its content everyday and am a frequent visitor to its desktop site.
In contrast, despite having the Sky Sports News app for almost a year today was the first time I visited its desktop site.
I think this is definitely attributable to the basic usability of the app, as it doesn’t give you a great perception of the Sky brand or make you want to read more of its content.