Some of you after reading this headline might be like, wait, they’re still around? Others of you, over 100 million of you, are current Flipboard users. Many of you remember Flipboard as the best iPad app for reading news and articles when it came out in 2010, winning several design awards and Apple’s iPad App of The Year. People under 30 might not know Flipboard at all.
Today, I start my tenure as Director of Product Design at Flipboard. It’s not just because the beautiful brand colors of black, white, and red are similar to the brand colors we had at my old design firm, Kicker Studio, although that helps 😉 No, it’s because of Flipboard’s potential and its team.
Flipboard is best known for being a news app and it does this very well. The algorithms are great, curating the best articles using signals from its users and its internal content team, and the reading experience is still top-notch. But over the last 10 years, powerful players such as Apple and Google have moved into this space, not to mention social networks like Twitter. (Luckily, Flipboard is much more than news. It has over 30,000 topics, from Skateboarding to Sexism to Sean “Puffy” Combs.)
In talking to Flipboarders during my interviews, another product focus Flipboard could lean more heavily into became clear. It’s one they’ve been slowly building over the last eight years: human and community content curation. Think: Pinterest, but for Content. Recall such beloved curation products of old such as Del.icio.us or Bagcheck. Now imagine those plus a beautiful viewing and reading experience. In fact, you don’t have to imagine it—some of it is already available! See for instance my magazine on The Best Introductory Cognitive Psychology Books for Designers. Previously, I would have made these lists here on Medium (and did) but it always felt a little dry. Medium feels more like a place for long-form articles like this one than it does for collections. (I’m sure they would disagree but 🤷♂️ )
With Flipboard you can find or make the 10 Best Articles on Creativity or something even more obscure like The Best Trails and Camping Gear for Hiking the Eastern Sierra. To me, that’s an interesting service, and it’s what Flipboard could be better known for. Flipboard could lead with human and community curation, and combine it with their stellar algorithmic curation for really interesting collections of content.
Luckily, like a classic Victorian, Flipboard has “great bones” as a platform for building off of that have been built and refined for years. It’s still an amazing reading experience, powered by great design and engineering, that can be extended. Design is in the DNA of the product, and that’s a blessing that not all companies have.
Refocusing a product around a (currently) secondary function is a two-fold process: first, reshaping the product (the underlying information architecture and interaction model); secondly, telling the new story of the product to existing, new, and former users of the product to (re)orient them or to introduce them to the new arrangement. This is the challenge I’m really interested in and excited to start.
I wouldn’t consider this challenge without a great team. During my interviews, I had really good conversations with everyone from people who’ve been at Flipboard since it began to people who just joined. All of them are excited to refocus Flipboard and are eager for design leadership. My design team is, in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, “young, scrappy, and hungry” and I can’t wait to start working with them to redesign Flipboard.