Sunday, 14 October 2012

Review: Into Gardens

Part of a screen grab I took from the Into Gardens website's News page (click on the pic to enlarge if needed) - the picture on the left + the headings and icons above it  give you a good idea of what you see on the iPad when you first enter the App
We're well into the Autumn, so it's time to curl up in the warm with a glass or mug of something comforting and a good book or magazine. Soon, it'll be Christmas, so I'm spending the next few Sundays reviewing some of the things that have grabbed my attention this year, which might also please the gardener in your life.

First up is the newly launched Into Gardens, an App which is available on the iPad and due to become available on iPhone and Android early next year.

I don't have an iPad, but I was able to nick borrow NAH's sister-in-law's brand new one when we were 'oop north' last weekend. The chaps and chapesses at Into Gardens have cleverly put a trial issue in the Apps store, so you can 'try before you buy'.

Downloading the App

There was no problem in finding the App in the store and selecting the trial issue (Issue 00). The first issue is also there to download for £2.99 (or £9.99 if you decide to take all the first year's quarterly issues). I just looked at the trial issue as I'd borrowed the iPad I was using. One surprise (to me anyway, but it's probably normal) is that the App doesn't download onto the iPad's touch screen like others do, but is accessed via the Newsstand.

First impressions

Into Gardens gives us some real eye candy and makes full use of the latest iPad's punchy screen resolution. The photography throughout is superb. It should be, as several well-known garden photographers are listed in the line up of worthies involved (NB these and even more team members are listed on the App itself).

If this is the future of garden media, then it looks like we're in good hands. It's not just good writing and photography, video and hyperlinks are used to explain the more complicated bits. There are also 'hot spots'* on some of the pictures for the viewer to click on for more information, or even buy what's on show**.

The success of the App depends on the strength of the images. These are used as article 'headings' and often as a sequence of images forming the article's 'bones'. Tapping on these images brings up the supporting text and any accompanying hotspots. Therefore if the images aren't enticing enough, the viewer won't be tempted to find out more.

Once a particular heading is selected from the menu at the top of the screen, readers can 'swipe' through the content 'pages' just like they would in a real magazine. Text and pictures can also be enlarged or made smaller in the usual iPad way.

I liked the Scrapbook feature which allowed me to select pictures or articles I want to keep for future reference. This feature is designed to work across a number of issues and reflects exactly what I do with my current magazines.

The Content

Remember I was looking at the sample copy. Issue 01 looks like it has the same headings, but of course could be very different inside...

The App has 7 key content headings:
  • Issue Number - introductory stuff including an editorial, Help information and introducing the team involved 
  • Gardens and plants - an article about Elba with several pictures demonstrating the hotspot feature. A number of these display text with links which goes through to an option to order the plants or other items under discussion. This connects the advertisement content of a conventional magazine into the feature content in a much more relevant and targeted fashion.
  • Writing - Lettuce from America - a guest article from Jean Ann Van Krevelen
  • Eating - Cleve West on Squash which includes a short video for more detailed information
  • Doing - Ursula Cholmeley of Easton Walled Gardens on gardening tasks for Autumn. Lots of content in this area - 17 individual articles if I remember correctly
  • A wheelbarrow icon - for the stuff you want to buy (having clicked on the same icon elsewhere in the App). I only clicked on the icon to check it worked, I didn't test the buying functionality
  • A scrapbook icon - for the content you want to save and any accompanying notes
Overall, the content is good with great pictures and I learnt something new. This is an inspirational App with a touch of aspiration. Whether it can also provide really in-depth, detailed information remains to be seen. That said, I have doubts whether electronic media is best suited to that kind of content anyway. This App's strength is its use of varied visual media with some supporting text, coupled with the ability to drill down further via hyperlinks and hotspots.

I felt it wasn't until the Doing section that the App's demonstration really got going in terms of showing lots of content. I believe from the on-screen messages I saw in the other sections saying there's lots more in Issue 01, that this section is probably the nearest to what's seen in a full issue. However, there's a risk that someone working through the demo content in menu order may decide the App doesn't have enough for them and gives up before they see the section fully stuffed with goodies.

I also found a few technical niggles with navigation through the App, using the scrapbook feature, plus a couple of video problems. I'm emailing the team separately on these, though I'm happy to say what I found/share user experiences if anyone's interested.

In Conclusion

Into Gardens sets the bar very high for anyone else considering taking gardening into electronic media. Despite its teething niggles, I liked it, and would consider taking out a subscription if I had an iPad. NB if you do decide to subscribe, your subscription is renewed automatically.

Don't have an iPad? Into Gardens has website, facebook page, pinterest and twitter accounts to explore and is currently sharing content via all of them on a regular basis.

* = Gardenista's review shows an example of a page with hotspots from Issue 01.

** = I'd like to know whether the companies linked to have paid for their inclusion or if there's an affiliate agreement or suchlike. If there is, then how Into Gardens fits with e.g. the disclosure legislation bloggers have to adhere to is an interesting side issue.

Update: Dawn from Into Gardens has been in touch via the Comments:

Thanks for taking a look at intoGardens. As you say this was the free issue which only gives a small taste of what the whole episode has to offer. In fact, the sample episode shows you only part of three different features or articles whereas the full issue has over 20 - many of which are packed with not just writing and photographs but also audio and video content. And as well as hearing from the delightful Cleve West we also have the the likes of Joe Swift, Nigel Colborn, Laetitia Maklouf and Mark Diacono.

She also tells me the technical niggles I've emailed about separately have been passed on to the team to investigate ready for the next issue :)

2 comments:

  1. Hi Michelle

    Thanks for taking a look at intoGardens. As you say this was the free issue which only gives a small taste of what the whole episode has to offer. In fact, the sample episode shows you only part of three different features or articles whereas the full issue has over 20 - many of which are packed with not just writing and photographs but also audio and video content. And as well as hearing from the delightful Cleve West we also have the the likes of Joe Swift, Nigel Colborn, Laetitia Maklouf and Mark Diacono.

    We would love you to have a look at the full issue in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for getting in touch Dawn - I've put the bulk of this comment as a post update, so it's more prominent.

    ReplyDelete
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...