Digg had been stagnating over the past few years. The site’s previous owners weren’t investing the time or effort in updating the systems or design and users rapidly fled to Reddit and Twitter for their news fix. However, new Digg owners at Betaworks have launched a long waited for Digg app for Android.
The app, which brings the web’s news aggregator to smartphones goes head to head with several other RSS readers that promote popular news stories such as Feedly and Pulse. Initial impressions are good as the app mirrors the look and functionality of the Digg website. Set-up time is extremely fast as it pulls your preferences from your current Digg account. But has Digg done enough to entice users?
Delving straight into Digg reader’s RSS capabilities you can follow virtually any writer, blog or publication. Most major news sources such as the NYT and Vice are already well established on Digg so you’ll receive a heap of news and analysis right away.
View Your Own Feeds or Popular Stories
Searching for and adding feeds is easy. Every time I entered a search term for a website’s feed, the result I was looking for appeared — there was no need to manually paste RSS feed URLs. You can also organise your feeds into folders which are accessible from the left hand side of the screen. These folders are customisable for personal categorisation.
Getting the News
News stories look fantastic. The black on white text makes articles easy to read and images sit atop each story. They display nicely with no pixelation or lag in loading times. Everything scrolls easily with no menu bars or pop-ups blocking your view of the article.
News Stories are Easy to Read
Other than your own personal feeds, Digg wants to tell you what the web is talking about. In order to do that, they have subsections such as ‘Top Stories’ and ‘Popular’ which bring stories from the Digg homepage that are popular with users straight to your phone.
Digg, Always Connected
The app works wonderfully with both your Digg profile and social media accounts enabling the easy sharing of good news stories. Articles can be ‘Dugg’ and bookmarked from within the app. If you use Instapaper or Readability, you can send articles straight to those apps to read later too. Articles can be shared via social media and if you don’t have a Digg account, you can sign in via Google, Twitter or Facebook.
Finally, Digg works extremely fast to bring you the news. I found it to be much faster in loading stories and contacting my Digg account than Pulse or Feedly.
A big issue for me was how uninteractive the list of news stories is. Other than allowing you to expand an article, it does nothing. A feature I would have liked to have seen here was a ‘swipe to mark as read’ function similar to the one in Gmail for Android.
Also, as much as I like the light, clean look of the app, it could use a dark theme. Reading news at night in bed leads to seared eyeballs as an ultra-bright screen burns your optic nerve. A simple switch or button to flip to a white on black skin would suffice, Digg.
The inability to resize text could also be an issue for users with sight problems but the developers say they’re working on that already for an upcoming update.
I love how this app looks. The design is minimalist but certainly isn’t lacking. For example, check out the attention to detail shown in the icons in the menu bar or the subtle differentiations in the shade of text on the home-screen to make the titles stand out more. I could also mention that when viewing news stories from a single source the associated image will compress into a smaller square image to go beside the title, with no loss of picture quality.
The design of the story viewer is simple. The icons along the top are unobtrusive and look great. The grey and black text on white gives this app a ‘newspaper feel’ for the 2013 smartphone age. All in all, the look and feel of Digg has been carefully crafted for tech savvy users who know what a good app should look like.
No specific tablet version or special tablet view
Unfortunately, there’s no tablet version. Digg will display in vertical orientation but not in landscape and the only difference when reading on a tablet are the bigger images.
Since Digg was purchased and integrated into a group of start-ups over at Betaworks, publishers have reported increased traffic from the site. This is an obvious response to users flooding back to the once floundering social news sharing site.
Right now, the Digg Android app is still new and certainly has issues, but it seems to have a new lease of life behind it. The app brings Digg to people’s handsets in a beautiful and usable way, while keeping Digg’s signature feature of curating the web and showing you the best bits.