A big update: Introducing Circa News 1.1

For the past few weeks, we’ve been hard at work on our first major release of 2013, Circa News 1.1.  We’ve introduced some new features in previous versions, as well as tackled some bug fixes, but 1.1 is our first major post-launch release and we couldn’t be more excited.  Circa News 1.1 should be available in the App Store within a matter of hours.  Here’s some of the things that we’ve been busy with:

What’s new in 1.1: Design Refresh

We’ve gone over every pixel with a fine toothed comb. The entire app’s design has been cleaned up and we think it looks great! Below is a series of screenshots depicting some of the changes we’ve made.

Before/after Point

It’s a bit subtle of a change, but we’ve parted ways with our good friend Livory as the typeface we use within the app.  Livory is a beautiful font (in fact, it’s the basis of the Circa logo), but not the most readable when it’s smaller.  It also tends to be a bit overly decorative.  With 1.1, we’ve replaced Livory with Meta Serif OT and the result has been fantastic.  Not only is it a far more readable font, but it’s also a bit more compressed, so overall readability and speed improve with this change.  One other subtle change is that we’ve removed Helvetica Neue (the default Apple font in iOS) and replaced it with Adobe’s beautiful typeface called Source Sans Pro.

Before/after Menu

We’ve also cleaned up the design of the category menu quite a bit as you see above.  This change is to make room for further plans we have for the menu.

Featured Story Marquee

Featured Story Marquee

Another big change we’ve made to the interface is replacing our previous “featured story” with a carousel-like marquee.  It’s a small but important change – this new design allows us to promote multiple stories at once.  This is important for whenever there may be multiple big stories in the course of a day.  Or perhaps there’s a story that’s big, but might occur over multiple days – the previous design didn’t allow for this, so we came up with a better solution.  We’ll now be able to feature anywhere from just one to many stories at once.  To top things off, it also really showcases some of the beautiful imagery we use for our stories.

Share by email

This has been one of our most-requested features.  Initially with our 1.0 we focused on pure social sharing, but it seems that quite a lot of people would still like to privately share stories they might find interesting.  We listened, and now we’re delivering on our promise.

Pull to refresh and loading indicator

In previous versions of the app, it was sometimes hard to tell when it was refreshing.  In addition to making the refresh experience faster, we’ve moved away from the refresh button and added pull to refresh, as well as an indicator to know when the app is refreshing if you just happen to be opening it.  This may seem like a small update, but a lot of work went into making the refresh time less.  For those that are curious and looking for the technical answer, we’ve consolidated what was previously a lot of calls to our servers upon refresh, to just a handful.  This dramatically reduced the load time.

Swipe to go back

Simple and just as it sounds – readers wanted a way to navigate back to the main story list without having to hit the “back” button.  Thus, we added a simple gesture that allows you to swipe right on the screen and move back to the story list.  While hidden gestures can sometimes be frustrating, we’ve found this one to be fairly intuitive and are happy with the result.

Marking followed stories as read and swipe-to-unfollow

Our readers have shown us just how much they love following stories (a lot), but we also needed some better ways to manage the stories once you’ve followed them.  Thus, we’ve added the ability to mass-mark unread story updates as read, as well as easily swipe in the “My Followed Story” list to unfollow them.

Improvements: Performance, Accessibility, Size

First things first, we’ve worked very hard to make the app run better/faster in general.  We’ve dramatically reduced the time that it takes to refresh the app, which has been a big improvement.  One other change we’ve made is in how the app handles images – we now use just one image for the thumbnail, and story image preview.  This has shown to be a massive improvement in load times of story images throughout the app.  Overall our work still isn’t done here – we’ll keep pushing forward to make the app function, as well as refresh, much faster.

We want to be as accommodating as possible with readers that would like to check out Circa.  As such, we’ve begun to implement accessibility features that will allow readers with alternative needs when navigating and reading.  We’ve got a way to go before the app is fully accessible, but with each update we’ll do as much as we can.

Lastly, we’ve done some work to reduce the footprint of the app as far as sheer file size is concerned.  Additionally, we’ve reduced the cache size that the app uses to store images.  This should have a positive impact when the app backs up to a computer or iCloud.

So much more to come!

We’re just a few weeks in to 2013, but we have a whole lot of amazing plans for where we’re taking Circa this year.  We’re already hard at work on some amazing new updates past 1.1 and can’t wait to get them to you.

In the meantime, if you’ve got any additional thoughts or feedback on 1.1 and beyond, please write us a note to support [at] cir.ca.  Thanks!