Merah Putih Inc. Launches Kurio, a News Reader App for Mobile Devices
Aulia Masna - 16 November 2013
News junkies, get ready to add another news reader into your collection of news readers already filling up your smartphones. The latest player in the field is Kurio, an Indonesian take on the popular app category, built by a team of developers and designers at Merah Putih Inc. under the direction of David Wayne Ika, who is also the head of news aggregator site Lintas.me.
Lintas.me and Kurio may share an overlapping interest but in terms of approach, they couldn’t be any more different. If Lintas.me is a news aggregator, Kurio is more along the lines of Flipbpoard, Zite, and Prismatic. It delivers news and stories based on individual interests and displays them in a more mobile friendly format. The app is currently available for iOS devices with the Android version coming at a later date.
The axis and general use
Kurio’s signature approach is its navigation tool which it calls the “axis”. Unlike many other news readers, Kurio has no “home” screen. The axis, which is anchored to the bottom right hand corner of the screen, acts as the primary navigational tool for readers to switch between the selected topics and news sources.
Kurio readers are requested to add their topics of interest upon launching the app for the first time to personalize the content. There are 17 specific topics to choose from as well as DailySocial, Trenologi, and SupperSoccer as the three promoted sites on the welcome page. This is a good time to for the standard disclosure to say that DailySocial and Trenologi also operate under the Merah Putih group of companies, which is part of the Djarum group which runs the SuperSoccer property.
There is the standard connection option to Twitter and Facebook and have those feeds displayed within Kurio and to sign up to Kurio to activate notifications but as far as news reading itself is concerned, it’s entirely unnecessary to sign up. The app uses the operating system’s built in integration with Twitter and Facebook as well as email to let readers share stories to others.
As mentioned earlier, navigation between topics or sources is done through the axis in the corner. Upon selecting a particular collection you swipe down to reveal older stories and swipe up to show newer stories. The stories are presented in stacks, rather than pages or panels, which gives the app a distinct user experience.
Kurio lets you mark an article with a heart, perhaps as an up vote mechanism which works as a way to push the article to prominence and into the list of Top Stories. Unfortunately there is currently no way to see which stories have been “up voted” by yourself.
Readability and experience issues
At this stage the app is fully functional as a news reader although there are certainly improvements that can be made especially when it comes to readability factor. Often the app would seemingly randomly fails to recognize spaces between words, merges paragraphs that are separated by line breaks, and fails to recognize apostrophes, not to mention ignoring text formatting entirely. These annoyances unfortunately add up to a very unpleasant reading experience, clearly something that the engineers have to rectify.
As illustrated below, South American mobile company América Móvil ended up as Amrica Mvil while apostrophes on Kurio’s own FAQ page on its website becomes a series of question marks if the page is opened within Kurio itself.
There were a couple of strange cases of a mix up which may or may not be due to Kurio itself. There was an article on Medium which shows up on the app, titled, Stop Using Analytics, Start Talking to Real Users. Upon opening the article, for some reason the content was from an entirely different article on Medium. Apparently it’s from a story called Power of Random Acts of Kindness. How the content and the title got mixed up is a mystery.
Also, a post purporting to be one titled What I Learn as a Developer ended up being some 32 page random piece containing random words phone numbers, URLs, YouTube links, also from Medium. It may not be a coincidence that both mix ups came from the same source.
Problems with sources
Perhaps another major factor affecting the overall experience in using Kurio is that the sources which form the basis of the curated topics seem a little bit too random. The app is in dire need of curators with a greater knowledge of credible news sources. Many of the preselected topics seem to have no more than five sources, limiting the range of articles that the topic presents to the readers.
Additionally, because it’s an Indonesian app, there are Indonesian content mixed quite liberally across every topic. If the app is meant only for Indonesians, it may not be too much of an issue, but for foreign readers, coming across Indonesian content among English language ones is not something that is expected or maybe not even wanted.
There needs to be a way to separate Indonesian language content from the English language content, and perhaps on a greater scale, create localized content categories, so readers don’t get served content from a language that they don’t understand.
Lots to do before next major release
Overall, Kurio is not a bad first attempt at delivering a modern, mobile news reader application. Most of the issues discovered in the app can be taken care of in the next version or versions and there are definitely ways to improve the app in terms of features. The use of the axis as a navigational tool seems to be a unique one and along with the panel approach and the rotating title pages, it gives the app its own look.
Before it reaches the next major version however, there’s a lot of work to be done to fix the deficiencies of the current one.
[update] Kurio’s David Wayne Ika has published a blog post regarding four of the major issues that affect the app’s usability and how the team plans to deal with them in future versions.