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image of BibleReader 5.0 from Olive Tree, via the water is alive...I know that it is something that I was moving to before I purchased the iPad, and it certainly is the main motivator towards how I use the iPad and even my N97 now. But, I’ve recently realized that I’m starting to forget the experience of looking for and comparing applications for some specific functionality for Bible applications.

You see, for the most part, I’m just pulling up the text via a search engine, and then copying the text into Evernote to use later. For as involved into Bible apps as I am, this is kind of unsettling – and probably not far from the truth of where others will be too sooner rather than later.

I realized this as I was commenting over at Wes Allen’s comparison review of the Olive Tree and Accordance mobile Bible apps. Here was my comment:

…I’ve got to remember to pay attention to the experience in apps – as these days, its more or less just “jump in a browser and find the text” approach that I’ve been using. Good to know that applications are not missing the boat in getting better at the core features.

To me, that says a lot. I’m often asked what do I like/dislike about mobile devices, but rarely on applications. When asked about applications, I usually tell folks that I’m content in the browser for most of my needs. And for those areas that a browser doesn’t work out, there are simple (and usually well done) apps that just fit.

It used to be the case with Bible apps that I was very tied to the user experience within the application. But, I think that changed a bit as I got involved with the Katana project. Yes, there is/was a need for getting a solid and usable experience for Bibles on the Maemo platform, but it wasn’t a pressing need for me. In fact, I wanted that project more because of the needs a visitor to MMM had more than my own. By the time the application got to a testing state, I was already steering away from the collection of Bibles that I owned, the application(s) that accessed them, and spent more time in-between the text pasting snippets of Scripture to notes and linking comments to pages and commentary online.

So, when I commented at Wes’s post, it hit – and kind of quickly – that there might be a space of applications where the experience might not matter any more after a time. After you get to a point with the content where you are comfortable no matter what the environment, does it matter the tool for access, or the fact that you can create paths to understanding yourself? I think that’s where I am with a lot of software – and probably why I don’t jump so quickly into the mobile app conversation. There’s a lot that I can do without a dedicated mobile app, and what I can’t its either not hard to learn or then find an application that works out better.

What works better for me is the idea of creating my own linked set of notes for my Biblical explorations. If you will, not so much an application that stores the Bibles, but one that is basically a notepad that can link to Bibles whether the content is stored online or in a specific application. Such an approach speaks a bit more tightly to the experience of non-academic readings of the text, and allows a person to essentially better chart their growth in understanding it.

There is still a space for applications I’m sure. But, I’m forgetting the reason why. And its not just in Biblical software. My attachment to good user experiences in applications is more made up of how content can be created and mashed-up between several different sources, rather than sitting siloed in one primary group’s piece of work.

Think about it yourself, do you really care about the experience of apps, or care more about what you can do with the content inside/despite the application’s environment? You might be surprised at how much you don’t remember when that environment is no longer primary to managing the content or understanding best how to live it.

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3 thoughts on “Failing to Remember the Bible App Experience

  1. Having used Linux as my sole OS for nearly a decade (before switching to Mac & then iOS) – I can say, “Yes, I care about the experience.” It doesn’t matter how much data there is for me to process if I can’t access it in a way that gets out of the way. This is one of the reasons I finally switched – I was tired of having to work around the interface to do what I wanted with the data.

    Now, I do appreciate YouVersion – it allows me to access texts in a web-app that draws me in. Bible Apps do the same when natively housed on my devices. Of course, I’m doing more than simple reading and jotting notes – so I NEED these other tools to do what I do. My wife could get along with YouVersion just fine (but, again, that’s because the experience of the web app is well thought-out and usually “just works”).

    I also appreciate GoogleDocs, and I’m using it for my sermon-writing, but when I access the sermons on my phone – I use an app because it’s just easier to work with the data that way (GoogleDocs editing on the iPhone SUCKS).

    On the other hand, I couldn’t currently do what I do with “sermon-painting” using the mobile tools you use – Keynote just kicks butt and I the web-apps I’ve used can’t even come close. I assume that we’ll eventually get to be able get to feature-parity with stuff like presentations and video editing over the cloud in time, but we’re not there yet. And even then, the environment created by the web-apps is going to have to be stellar. People don’t want to fight with their tools, they want to use their tools.

  2. Last point is a good point: “people don’t want to fight with their tools.” I know for a fact that I don’t fight (anymore) with mine. If it doesn’t work – on multiple mobile platforms – then it’s a fight for me, and I just can’t stand it. We really should be past that point of content not being able to go anywhere, and be manipulated as we need (got an upcoming post hitting on just this topic here).

    For me, the bible app never got out of the way. Even on the iPad where some companies paid better attention to user experience, there was still the matter of the application getting in the way. To be able to go out and put together the text in a manner that works for me (or for distribution to others) was always easier. Blame it on the Legos of my youth, but I am much better directing the content when given pieces, than being told that it only works if I use it on a certain environment only.

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