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Preparing for iPad launch in record time

Guinness World Records has been publisher of the world’s bestselling copyright book and the global authority on record breaking achievements for more than fifty years, so it was natural for them to want to embrace Apple’s platform should a device arrive offering a screen size to complement the existing large format annual.

At Brandwidth we had worked with touchscreen technology for many years in an experiential environment and knew that the tactile immediacy of a good user interface could make the difference between a sale and a walk-by. The arrival of the iPhone and iPod Touch heralded the introduction of reliable and engaging mobile hardware capable of performing the same tasks but in the hands (and pockets) of the consumer.

In the months running up to the official announcement of the iPad, we were already developing a number of concepts for clients to take advantage of a multitouch device with a larger real estate than the iPhone. Guinness World Records (GWR) was a client who shared our vision and passion for the future of digital publishing.

Our first step was to reveal a proof of concept in 2009 with a series of viral videos on what appeared to be the forthcoming iPad. First to appear was a demonstration for Ikea, next the preview of GWR’s potential offering and finally a light-hearted take on the theme showing stone age man tackling the new ‘iSlate’.  These apparent glimpses of Apple’s mythical technology generated a YouTube feeding frenzy with over 2.5 million aggregated views and some invaluable consumer insight into the demand for the hardware and software.

Our concept proved to be pretty close to the final device, giving us a distinct advantage when the official release confirmed our screen size and operating system and placed us well ahead of the game as far as development was concerned. We now had a name, a fledgling iPad app and a motivational deadline – 3rd April 2010, iPad launch day.

With such compelling content, working with the GWR brand has always been a designer’s dream as your palette is a limitless collection of unrelated record attempts from the fastest to the tallest, the deadliest to the ‘strangest’. This extreme diversity forms the basis of the printed annual and the Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips LITE app.

Our task was to create an interactive environment that would encourage the user to discover additional facts without filling every available pixel with information. We completely redesigned the look and feel to distance the app from the printed book as the digital version complements rather than replaces the established annual.

Taking the opportunity to introduce a parallax effect, we developed three dimensional environments for each ‘spread’ with content passing by at different levels as the page scrolls past. This simulated visual depth also helps to emphasise the depth of information, with the top level giving a record title and image, touching either reveals the ‘Digital Palette’ – a secondary level visualised within a collection tray displaying additional text, photos, video, charts, actual size objects and spotlight facts.

Through multitouch, we were able to engineer a somewhat unconventional two finger page swipe to avoid inadvertent selection of the top level content, yet allowing the user to progress through the app on a linear journey from left to right, or using a pull up scrollable menu from the base of the screen. Our aim was always to avoid the conventional ‘page turner’ and play with the perception of how a digital book should work.

Throughout the project, we were always aware of the pioneering nature of being one of the first to launch a product on hardware we had never even laid our eyes on. The run up to iPad launch weekend presented us with a series of milestones: Tuesday – demonstrate finished app to GWR US team, Wednesday – app approved by Apple pending final submission from the latest SDK, Thursday – full green light, Friday – on the App Store, Saturday – iPad launches with Brandwidth at the front of the queue at the 5th Avenue Apple Store. It works!

With downloads now in five figures we are sharing the journey with those iPad early-adopters who have made the commitment to add Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips LITE to their precious viewer, browser, reader, enabler, call it what you will. We are responding to criticism with regular updates and appreciate the candid comments as this will lead to an even better product. Our next update will introduce further navigational enhancements along with an ‘on this day in history’ record feed for the introduction spread.

Having waited so long for a platform to showcase GWR’s figurehead publication, consumers are now demanding a version for iPhone and iPod Touch. Re-engineering for the smaller screen required a fresh approach to navigation and page layout and the free version will be ready for the new iPhone launch in June. Full paid-for editions will debut later this year. Expect the addition of many more pages, searchable content and the introduction of ‘Super Spreads’ – a whole new level of interactivity to bring digital publishing to life.

See Brandwidth’s promotional video for Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips LITE to see the iPad app in action.

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