Review: News Digest Apps: Persona
Persona, from Layers, is effectively a news digest app on the big screen: iPad or Chrome. Unfortunately, the small amount of availability automatically decreases the app’s market, but if it works on the iPad as well as it does on Chrome, then stick with it, Persona team.
After being an avid user of Pulse for some time, Persona felt like almost Pulse on the desktop. After signing in with my Facebook and Twitter accounts, Persona not only fed me those two feeds into the page, but also allowed me to compose posts to those networks right within the app. However, I could only post to one at a time – no double posting, as TweetDeck (for instance) could offer, but a nice touch nonetheless. As is almost necessary, I am able to share articles that I am viewing using the share buttons to those two sources and nothing more.
With a news digest app, as mentioned, I’m expecting a slimmed-down article. Even on the desktop, I could have various sites bookmarked and go to them if I really wanted to. This is where Persona shines. In this respect, it has acknowledged it is on the desktop, and displays any article perfectly. Well, almost perfectly, but I’ll come to that later. Regardless as to how the article is displayed on the website of origin, it has the title big and bold in the centre, a lovely by-line and then the date of publication. The font is grand, and although it can’t be changed I don’t think I’d want to. In the top banner, there is an “Open in new tab” link, to be able to view the original article; as well as sharing buttons and the forward and backward buttons to view the next articles in the series.
The problems start when we consider images. On the test Mashable article I used, the picture isn’t wrapped, it’s just on its own separated from the article. Compare that with the real article underneath it and we can see the issue. The other images in the Persona article aren’t too bad, as they don’t disrupt the article, and are almost their own section there anyway. However, the image gallery is where there’s another issue. It’s a great idea: having a gallery always accessible at the top of the page, only a click away, to view all the images in the article. It took a while for Persona to distinguish between the images in the article, and the other images – such as the Digg, StumbleUpon and Facebook icons – and included them all. It also seems to ignore the feature image, which is still part of the article. Awkward.
One of the good features that does make things a little better is the ability to Bookmark articles. Although there is no way of actually bookmarking an article when the user is viewing it (bookmark selector is on the feed view), this could be used as a Read It Later equivalent. It is a feature of many of the news digest apps featured here to have export to Read It Later possibilities. Persona does not, but since it is on the desktop, Bookmarking almost fulfils that requirement.
My final gripe with Persona is that it’s almost obvious that it was an iPad app-turned PC app. I may be wrong, though I will be surprised if I am. On the desktop version, the wasted screen space and lack of groupings left it a mess with any more than eight sources. Although a truly excellent display of individual content, navigating through sources was far too arduous for me to be productive.
I give Persona a deserving 6/10, which is probably a little harsh. From what I’ve seen, a unique app on the desktop scene, but lacking in some key things that will hopefully come around in the future. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great app for the casual desktop user with a small number of sources. If that’s you – use it, the other apps will probably be too many feeds. For me, I have lots, so a poor use of screen space left it too time-consuming for my needs.