How I fell in love with Reddit: the power of the app

For it’s hardcore fans – and there are many of them about – it’s Reddit’s no frills, simple, old-school design that’s a major part of its appeal.

For me however, it was just the reason I could never get into it.

I get it, Reddit is a website delivering an almost entirely content based experience and focusing on functionality over aesthetics.

As one redditor replied when someone dared to ask why reddit was so popular given how ugly it is:

I think people like the massive set of sub’s and the intelligent conversation. For that you don’t have to be picky about formatting. It may not be the prettiest, but it works fine for many people.

If you want pretty sidebars go to Facebook, you’ll just give up the IQ level and actual answers to questions.

Reddit screenshot

How Reddit looks on a browser

Honestly, I do get it. But however much I tried to force myself to use Reddit and become part of what is undoubtedly a fascinating community, we just didn’t click. Even after the major controversy and fierce criticism of Reddit in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, it remains a serious social news hub, at times an excellent platform for debate and a treasure trove of interesting and rather random material, very useful from the perspective of a journalist and someone interested in community engagement.

Despite all that, I just could not get past it’s ugliness. It’s browser version is clunky, archaic and uninspiring.

The turning point in my relationship with Reddit was the moment I started experiment with iPad apps for reddit.

There is no official client and the third party apps available are far from perfect. However, they are pretty.

Reddit for iPad

iAlien for Reddit, the free app I’ve been using, is available on both iphone and ipad. While according to reviews from more experienced Redditors the comment editing and deleting functions within the app are seriously lacking, its smooth, slick and very attractive user interface has finally given me a window into the weird and wonderful world of reddit that I want to browse through for hours on end.

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I’ve learn that putting an inflatable blood pressure meter around your neck and pumping it is probably not a great idea, laughed at this very flat Russian dwarf hamster sitting on a couch and found this truly heartwarming and powerful image and accompanying story of a 65-year-old man with Downs Syndrome.

I am slowly understanding this fascination with “the front page of the internet”, albeit in a way that most traditional redditors would consider sacrilegious.

At the moment, I’m everything the true reddit fan despises, I’m a true lurker. However, this is just the start, as I get hooked to Reddit, I’m sure I will begin contributing as well, it’s just a matter of time.

Diversifying user experience on other platforms

Other than how fickle I am, my Reddit experience indicates the power that social media mobile and tablet apps have in diversifying their user experience to attract different audiences with different ideas and needs in utilising it.

Offering an identical experience on different platforms may work for some sites, applications or social networks, but reaching out to a completely different type of users may also be worth looking into.

Another example of this is Flow, an iPad compatible Instagram app. The application, specifically crafted for the iPad’s screen describes itself as “the missing iPad app for Instagram”, was made by digital design studio Codegent because they “couldn’t wait any longer for an iPad compatible Instagram app so we built our own”.

flow app from iPad screenshot

Flow app for iPad

Thinking beyond the original use and platforms networks and apps were originally made for could be an opportunity worth at the very least looking into and at best a huge growth area for a different audience.

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