A few months back, Instapaper was acquired by Betaworks, better known as the folks who bought Digg and rescued it from a hell of disuse. Tomorrow, the company is launching an overhauled version of Instapaper to coincide with Apple's iOS 7 launch. Here's a look at the new, flatter, easier-to-use Instapaper.
Note: In each comparison, the left screenshot is before, and the right screenshot is after.
On the home screen, the first thing you'll notice is the simplified layout, which matches Apple's overall push towards getting rid of unnecessary design elements. The typefaces have a slighter profile, and the dark top and bottom bands that used to enclose the app are now white like the main interface area. It turns out that shading might not have been necessary all along.
You'll also notice that the app now has a video tab. In other services like Pocket, "Read Later" has been interchangeable with "Watch Later" for some time, and it's nice to see that Instapaper is beginning to head in that direction as well.
Once you're in your article queue, clicking "filter" will give you the ability to organise the list by date and article length. If you've only got 10 minutes, you can instruct the app to show you the stories that'll only take that long to read. You can also sort by popularity, a feature that uses the same social data secret sauce powering Digg's wonderful mix of stories.
Finally, in the actual article pages (See top image), the typeface hierarchy has been improved so that it's easier to pick out body text from headlines and subheads. Overall, the contrast of this new page is a higher so that the text pops more.
You'll immediately notice that Instapaper is simpler in design and easier to read that ever, which is quite an accomplishment given that it's already the reader of choice for many people. Still, Instapaper 5.0 is more of an iOS 7 redesign than a massive game change. It looks cleaner and the new features are nice, but we're not seeing a radical departure from original developer Marco Arment's vision. If Betaworks is planning some deep integration with Digg or its other services it hasn't hit yet. We asked CEO of Digg/Instapaper and SVP at Betaworks Andew McLaughlin when we could expect to see the Digg invasion happen. He answered by email that all read later services will get deeper integration, much the way they do in Digg Reader now.
Coming! 5.1 is going to have better Instapaper/Digg (but also Pocket & Readability & IFTTT) integration. We want to make it easier to have things happen automagically.
And according to McLaughlin, Digg will never be hardwired in, as one might fear. Betaworks won't privilege its own product — it'll just be easier to move all your content around automatically with a click. Many of these features have already quietly been turned on:
I wouldn't want to jack a Digg tab into Instapaper — would violate the complete user control over content. But I DO want to make it super-easy for a user to choose to put Digg into a folder. Or whatever source. We added good IFTTT integration to this build, re-enabled RSS, and it makes that pretty easy. But it should be even easier, and native. Fore example, I get the daily Doonesbury cartoon and everything from Longreads automatically in Instapaper.
That's an awfully democratic approach, and one we're looking forward to down the line. For now, this subtle design revamp goes a long ways to improving readability and user experience. The new version of Instapaper drops tomorrow.