Storehouse, the new iPad app from former Apple user experience evangelist, Mark Kawano and team, calls itself visual storytelling. It's selling itself short. Combining delightful interactions with, for the most part, intuitive navigation, Storehouse not only lets you soak in absolutely gorgeous photo and video essays by anyone and everyone, but also lets you easily create and share your own as well.
When you're reading, it's immersive. You not only move through the story, but it moves around you. The best of them use video subtly, in a way that textures but doesn't distract, and images that don't just accentuate but punctuate the prose. When you're creating , images and videos and text frames float and snap into place. You can crop and position, style and arrange, and quickly, joyfully, assemble and share your own stories.
Storehouse is remarkable for a version 1 product, but it's still a version 1 product. Like the iOS Home screen, you can't place elements anywhere you want them. They flow into their grid and empty spaces are rapidly filled. While multiple images can share a column, text is always full width. All of this makes it simpler for first-time users, but limits what those seasoned at layout can accomplish. Where exactly you need to go to do something, and how exactly it works also isn't always immediately clear. However, because of the emphasis on direct manipulation, everything can be discovered as you play.
As a visual storyteller, Storehouse isn't unique. Hell, even Apple's Pages will let you assemble creative works. However, what Storehouse does isn't as important as how it does it. It makes telling a story easy, accessible, and beautiful. I've used the term "finger-painting with productivity" to describe iPad software before. This, Storehouse, is "finger-painting with storytelling", and if there's one thing I'm a sucker for even more than technology, it's storytelling.
One area that has raised some concern is Storehouse's business model. Outwardly, it currently appears not to have one. Accounts are free, reading, creating, and sharing is free. And there's nary an ad to be seen, anywhere. Given how other startups have either closed down or sold to giant corporations who killed them, that concern isn't unjustified. If you share it, you can still enjoy the work of those who contribute regardless, and you can always protect any creative investment you make yourself by keeping copies of your photos, videos, and text elsewhere.
Storehouse's success will depend on getting a lot of people using it as quickly as possible, so taking a hit up front could pay off in the long wrong. Pro accounts, business accounts, distribution channels, and all sorts of interesting possibilities could follow. I have no idea what they'll do or when they'll do it, but I'm interested enough to stay tuned and find out.
That's because I like Storehouse. Kawano has a long, successful history in photography and visual design, and the more people and companies we have tackling next-generation interactive media, the better. (You can listen to Kawano talk about his career on our Iterate podcast.)
I also enjoy how Storehouse — and apps like it — shut up those who continue to drone on about iPads being for consumption rather than creation simply because they can't comprehend a reality beyond their own use cases and preconceptions.
Storehouse is an app born of and too the iPad, and amazingly so. Give it a try and let me know what you think.