Kickstarter is the world’s largest meeting place for individuals looking to fund a project and those who would like to invest in a good idea. It has spawned plenty of success stories, as well as its own problems, thanks in part to its popularity.
The service has done just fine until now without an iOS app for iPhone users to peruse and fund on the go. That’s all changed with the release of a new app which provides all the functionality of the full desktop site in a small form factor, perfectly designed for an iPhone screen.
Now you can browse and back projects anywhere with a mobile reception – whether that’s a good thing or not I’ve yet to decide.
Registered At Last
Call me what you will, but until last week I didn’t have a Kickstarter account. I’d often found myself browsing the site, looking for projects that interested me – and have even externally funded a few projects (Carmageddon for one, Double Fine Adventure is another) that had already reached their goal but have carried on collecting via PayPal.
It makes sense then that first thing I did after downloading the Kickstarter for iPhone app was register an account. It took 2 seconds, and has converted me into a potential backer from just being an idle browser. The app doesn’t force you to sign up or log in, but I don’t think it would be a bad thing if it did in future versions. The functionality would suit those who already have accounts, and Kickstarter only stands to benefit from more registered users.
Thankfully, the long overdue Kickstarter app more than makes up for its absence over the last few years by being a pleasure to use. The interface retains the same style and theme as the main website, albeit with an iOS twist. There are three tabs at the bottom of the screen – Discover, Activity and Profile. It’s hardly groundbreaking, but it’s nice to have quick access to settings and messages on the Profile tab while keeping track of projects in the other two.
The Discover tab is arguably where most users will end up spending most of their time, with the Staff Picks category appearing on startup. At the top of the page you can see the project of the day, along with a smattering of projects from a range of categories to scroll through. Much like Flipboard, tapping the heading reveals the project navigation.
This navigation pane has quick access to Staff Picks, current Popular projects, Starred projects and a search box. Below these four options is every category on the Kickstarter website as well as a tally of the current active projects. It’s a simple way to get around, and it’s really all that was required. I’ve often thought the main Kickstarter website was flawed in that you can’t filter by newest projects in a specific category, and the app makes no exception – you’ll get a list of projects and that’s it.
Back in Black
Tap a project and you’ll be taken to a screen which looks somewhat reminiscent of the new YouTube app. The Kickstarter video (if any) will be at the top of the screen, and you can view this in a small window rather than having to go full-screen (though the option is there). Below you can read a short description with a link to read more, and below this are the pledge tiers.
There are a few nice things about this view, first is the “bouncy” nature of the screen as you scroll upwards. It’s a small animation which expands the video somewhat and makes the whole app look and feel responsive. The other nice thing is the ability to scroll left and right to advance through the other projects within the category you are viewing.
This horizontal navigation actually makes it easier to navigate a category than the website, and this fits with the attitudes of mobile surfers. At the bottom of the screen are buttons for backing or starring (which reminds you shortly before the project’s time is up), and there’s a handy share menu at the top of the screen once you’ve scrolled past the video.
There’s also another way to browse Kickstarter, and that’s using the location button found on the main Discover tab. Once tapped, the app will ask for permission to use your location and uses this to find local projects. It’s a nice touch but depending on where you live there might not be an awful lot to back as I found out.
The Activity tab merely functions as a feed for tracking project activity, new updates, completion notifications and if you choose to follow a friend via Facebook then you will see their activity here. The Me tab provides quick access to messaging and settings, where you can toggle notifications – another of the app’s benefits.
The mobile app is perhaps the perfect companion to the desktop website in that users will get push notifications from projects they have backed, which in my opinion are less intrusive than email notifications (which you can then turn off).
The Kickstarter app took longer to arrive than most of the crowd-funding projects the site has kick started, but the wait was worth it. In the time I’ve spent gawking at other people’s good ideas I’ve yet to have it crash, registration was as painless as it should be for all services and the UI is responsive and orderly. Aside from creating a universal app (which I’m sure the developers are already working on) I can only criticize the fact that backing projects on a whim is now that little bit easier, which means I’m more likely to spend money I don’t have (a winner for Kickstarter then).