No one's nailed the mobile web experience yet. Even when they're supposedly optimized for our on-the-go behavior, websites still take forever to load and feel clunky on our screens. A new app out today named Wildcard aims to be a Safari- or Chrome-killer for your iPhone by changing the format and visual language of the web. Basically: Goodbye pages, hello cards.
As a native app that replicates the browser experience, Wildcard only extracts the most important part of each webpage, says Wildcard's VP of User Experience Khoi Vinh [disclaimer: Khoi's a good friend]. "We pull only just what the user needs from the web—the actual content, the actual photos—and leave everything else behind—visual clutter, CSS, HTML." While that sounds tantalizing, it's also very similar to how Flipboard and many other read-only apps perform. We may have to use a few different apps to access it, but the streamlined web is already right there on our phones.
So what makes this idea new, at least from a web-navigation standpoint? A skeuomorphic shift away from the web "page" to this trending idea of cards, which are infinitely more appropriate for the phone, says Vinh (he explains it well in this post). "We believe that the metaphor of pages worked great for desktop but it's fundamentally wrong for mobile. Pages are clunky, cluttered and slow. Cards are more streamlined, more focused and faster."
Just in my brief interaction with cards, I loved the way the experience looked and felt. No more scooting around on poorly proportioned pages, sorting through endless menu options or pinch-zooming impossibly tiny fields. The best moment I had was when reading through one of their pre-selected trending topics—"comet landing"—which had a rich variety of stories. I flipped from card to card with all the information that's normally hard to find on a clunky mobile web page laid out cleanly and efficiently, in lovely type. I found a few great stories and could read them right there in the app.
Where Wildcard might performs best so far is in the shopping experience, where it's easy to flip between various products to compare/contrast, especially when viewed within this democratizing layout. But right now that's pretty much all there is to do: Look at news and buy products. And in most cases, to actually buy the products, I'd still get kicked out to the regular old web anyway.
Wildcard definitely isn't a replacement for a browser, or at least not yet. You can't just search for something like you would on Google because it only delivers limited results. Even when I searched for Kim Kardashian, easily one of the biggest searches on the internet right now, there were only a handful of cards delivered, and not all of them were relevant. I couldn't do most of the things I use the web for on a regular basis, like find a place to eat lunch nearby. Although Yelp is a partner, I couldn't see how to filter the results that kept coming up, so I ended up heading over to the Yelp app instead. I also couldn't read my own articles I'd written for Gizmodo, simply because they weren't a partner yet.
With such limited content, right now Wildcard is a design exercise more than anything, a way to see if this kind of card-based experience can maybe deliver the full range and richness of the web. The big key will be if Wildcard can get more partners onboard with the card format. Wildcard already offers support for anyone with an online presence to create cards and reach users natively on mobile, says Wildcard CEO and co-founder Jordan Cooper. "We've built really robust tools for any publisher or developer to create and manage their cards," he says. "Right now commerce and media are the most represented publishers leveraging cards, but anyone with an online presence can publish their experience through cards. Soon you will be able to find tickets, research travel, look up a yoga schedule, all in this new format."
It sounds promising. Cards make a lot of sense in our post-browser world, and an app that collects the best of the web into one place is a whole heck of a lot more convenient then downloading a bunch of proprietary apps for my favorite websites. I'd rather install one app that does it all well. Wildcard doesn't do it all quite yet, but it's certainly a pleasant experience so far. Available in the App Store now. [Wildcard]