Weekend Read’s support site encourages users to send in feature requests in addition to the usual bug reports. We try to answer every inquiry.
This week, we responded to a plea for landscape mode in Weekend Read by explaining that while it’s not out of the question, we had already tried landscape mode for the iPhone, and found it unsatisfactory.
The user disagreed — and threatened a negative review — arguing we should let consumers decide whether they want to rotate scripts to read them in landscape mode.
This got me thinking about landscape mode on the iPhone, and the apps that support it. As I started going through the apps on my first few screens, I realized that landscape on the iPhone is far from universal.
Notably, many of Apple’s own apps eschew landscape mode. Just as notably, many reading-style apps support landscape mode. So it’s certainly worth looking at the pros and cons of adding landscape support to the iPhone.
PRO: Lots of other reader apps allow landscape.
CON: We’re different than most reader apps. In Weekend Read, margins matter a lot for dialogue and transitions. We can’t just set every block left and move on. We would need to extensively test which margins look right for which font size. An extra complication is that we’d need to do it for both the smaller iPhone 4 series and the larger iPhone 5s.
PRO: We did landscape mode in the iPhone version of FDX Reader.
CON: Supporting landscape in FDX Reader was a pain in the ass. New developer tools make it somewhat easier, but Weekend Read is a much more complex app than FDX Reader, with many more views.
PRO: With the much-rumored larger iPhones, people might use them more like iPad minis, which are often in landscape mode.
CON: There aren’t bigger-screen iPhones yet.
CON: All new graphics, all new headaches. From the user perspective, it seems like allowing landscape rotation should be as simple as flipping a switch. And in fact, it sort of is in in Xcode. But when you flip that switch, you find that almost everything needs to be rethought and rebuilt, because it was designed for vertical orientation.
PRO: Users could choose even larger fonts. By sacrificing vertical space, we could let the user have letters nearly an inch tall.
CON: The text options screen is actually a good example of what would need to be rebuilt. Here’s the screen in portrait mode:
The sample text lets you see in real time what the font will look like. Here’s that same screen in landscape:
We’d have to substantially rethink this view.
CON: The gestures are built for portrait. On Weekend Read, you can swipe right to get back to the Library. You can swipe left to show the Page Jumper. But in landscape, your thumbs are in the wrong place. It’s not a deal-killer, but it’s a worse experience.
CON: Twice the views to debug. Twice as many things to break.
CON: Very few people are asking for landscape mode. By far the majority of requests are for an iPad version. Allowing landscape rotation on the iPhone would push the iPad version back at least another two weeks.
Ultimately, every choice comes with a cost. Adding landscape to the iPhone isn’t impossible, but it means not doing something else, and right now the many “something elses” are worth a lot more.
You can find Weekend Read in the App Store.