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Interactive Annual 15:
information design

USA TODAY iPhone App

“This app packs an impossible amount of fresh information into an elegant and intuitive experience.” —Jason Ring

“A great app for readers of USA TODAY that makes a vast amount of information readily available through a seamless and intuitive navigation—with impressive load times that make it even more accessible.” —Ranee Chung

Overview: Having already launched an iPhone Web application, USA TODAY wanted to take the next step and release a robust native application to leverage more of the iPhone’s features. For a news outlet, basic headline presentation is a given; this application, however, differentiates from the standard article-only approach that several news corporations had already taken with iPhone apps. Content is broken into five distinct sections: Headlines, Sports Scores, Weather, Pictures (the day’s best photos) and Snapshots (easy-to-read graphs associated with a poll question). The USA TODAY app is one of only a handful of multipurpose applications currently available that translates the brand and the content to next-generation mobile devices while offering users a unique experience.

  • • The iPhone GUI was created in Objective-C on the Cocoa Touch framework, using Xcode and Interface Builder, with an ASP.NET/SQLserver backend server layer.
  • • Macworld rated the application a four out of five mice.
  • • Within a week, the app jumped to the top of the free news category and remained there for more than 50 days.

Comments by Rusty Mitchell

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “The challenge was to create a product that effectively presented the content on the mobile platform in a way that both stayed faithful to the USA TODAY brand, but also distinguished itself from other news applications.”

Is the audience you were targeting a particularly difficult one to reach? “While the general news category is one of far-reaching demographic appeal, we’ve been pleased by the response of many who were loyal to other news brands, but now stated that they exclusively use the USA TODAY product on their mobile device.”

Did you learn anything new in the process? “There is no substitute for either an intuitive UI experience or a reliable/stable product, which means that there is no such thing as too much testing time.”

Were there any specific demands that made the project easier or harder? “Having day-to-day collaboration with members of both the design and it teams at USA TODAY eliminated any surprises that might have surfaced during development. Open communication between ourselves and the client made for a smooth project flow.”

What would you do differently if you could start the project over? “If we could start over, we would have built in a bit more time for testing and would have lined up a handful of international testers. An international/24-hour related date bug was the only major crash based oversight that was made during our testing cycle.”


Rusty Mitchell, creative director/interface designer
Bill Tallent, principal
Mike Ligon/Stephen Tallent, programmers
William Couch, USA TODAY/Chuck Rose, USA TODAY, graphic designers
Tim Carlson, USA TODAY/Justin Hoover, information architects
Mercury Intermedia (Brentwood, TN), project design and development
Matt Jones, USA TODAY/Joel Sucherman, USA TODAY, clients