Turning inner space into outer space

September 25, 2012

Behold, Quartz, the future of web apps

Web apps with responsive design have been coming into their own recently, but they took a big step forward this week with the launch of Quartz, a high-end business news site.

If you visit Quartz on your computer, be sure to grab the right edge of the window on your web browser and resize it. You’ll find that as it gets smaller, the layout changes. Known as responsive design, the idea is to have one site (or web app) that works on both the desktop and on mobile devices from tablets to smart phones of various sizes.

There’s no need to download a special app and install it. A responsive web app works wherever you have a web browser.

Quartz, with an elegance that’s hard to beat, is a beautiful example of how web apps should be done. Sponsorships mean it is not cluttered with ads, allowing the design to sparkle. And best of all, the stories are interesting and well-written — I was immediately drawn in by a piece about how Facebook is targeting audiences in developing countries.

My only criticism is that the site seemed slow on my 2007 iMac and first-generation iPad. It could be that the extra coding needed for a responsive design also weighs it down. Notice, for example, that photos resize as you make the window bigger and smaller. I imagine it takes a fair bit of behind-the-scenes magic to make this happen. Still, refinements are likely on the way.

Other than that, I’m giving Quartz an enthusiastic thumbs-up. I unabashedly predict it will set the standard for other news-oriented web apps.

To learn more about Quartz, be sure to read Josh Benton’s excellent overview at Nieman Journalism Lab, a site that’s a must-read for anyone interested in the future of news.

Oh, and by the way, newsonaut is also responsive — at least for smart phones. If you’re reading this on a computer, try making the window of your web browser as narrow as you can and see how the site layout changes.