We’re not ones to criticize innovation but we’re also fans of general usability. And as USA Today tries to make the paper digitally relevant, they’re making it all sorts of confusing.
The newspaper, for all its flaws, has an impressive user interface. Tried and true even.
But USA Today wanted to introduce some digital pizzaz so it’s introduced printed data tags that readers can use to get augmented and/or supplemental material online. The tag is essentially a bar code.
Take it away, Fast Company:
Essentially the paper is trying to add bonus content to its dead-tree edition, bolting on the kind of additional data, real-time dynamic, moving images and dynamic advertising that’s been the provenance of web newspapers for some time—a bridge, if you will, between the paper newspaper and USA Today’s web presence. It seems like a good idea.
But it’s kind of flawed. To access the additional content, readers will have to have a smartphone or laptop with webcam handy—they’ll point the device’s camera at the Tag, and then get surfed to the bonus link encoded in the Tag itself. But if a user already has a web-enabled smartphone or laptop handy, then they may as well be reading the digital edition of USA Today, and the fuss of fishing out your smartphone or laptop while struggling with three square feet of newsprint will put many users off right from the start. Then they’ll have to download a special app from Microsoft, which, though free, is yet another barrier to consumer interaction.
So, thumbs up for the attempt. Thumbs down for the execution.