May 11 AT 2:25 PM Matt Demers 9 Comments

The Hockey News’ app hits the ice in time for playoffs.

Though the NHL season is on its final legs, The Hockey News took the opportunity to release its free Android app yesterday. As a Canadian, I’m obligated by my religion to both report this to the masses and review the application.

The Hockey News’ app is very simple in its design, but it does its job extremely well. It reports scores, headlines, blogs and any other breaking changes to The Hockey News’ main site. Its headlines are usually pulled from newswires around the continent, but its scores are updated frequently. It had a database of stats and rosters for each team, along with schedules and match-ups that will keep any fan of major (and minor) hockey satiated when away from their TV or Internet browser.

Things I liked:

  • The ability to personalize my home screen. This seemed very iGoogle-esque to me, as I could eliminate the things I didn’t want to see while keeping the things that interested me. This would be great for someone who just wanted to see scores instead of the associated news
  • The clear labels for the “Scores”, “Stats” and “Standings” menus along the top. It isn’t a pain to get to these pages, and they don’t look half bad either. Text is readable and ads are unintrusive.
  • The home page’s headings (“Headlines”, “Columns”, etc) are easily readable and clear. The articles themselves are presented in a grid-like fashion, giving us headlines and synopsis without having to strain our eyes.
  • The ability to bookmark individual articles to view for later seems out of place, but because the articles aren’t presented on a mobile version of THN’s site, it’s necessary.

Thing I didn’t:

  • News posts’ icons don’t show up currently; I’ve tried refreshing multiple times, but it seems that the only things that’re loading are the team logos. Images in articles seem to suffer the same problem.
  • Lack of comment functionality that is available on The Hockey News’ main site. This could possibly just be something they’ll implement later, or they’ve purposely excluded for the mobile version of their news.
  • Articles tend to have the ability to scroll way past when the text actually ends; this sometimes results in a giant white space.

I don’t usually give glowing reviews to news apps because in most cases they’re glorified RSS feeds; some even have the audacity to charge you for a functionality you can get in Google Reader for free.

In order to make the successful transition from print to digital, news sites (and their apps) need to offer us something we can’t get by just adding their RSS feed to our readers and forgetting about their brand. Too often are we just given a clunky, text-and-ad-ridden mess that is just plain painful to use.

However, whoever designed The Hockey News’ app should take pride in what they’ve created: it’s amazingly functional and has an informative design. If the developer is smart, he/she will license it out to any news organization who wants their Android application done right.

Matt is a Toronto blogger who enjoys writing opinion columns about culture, comics and of course, Android. You can find more of Matt's work on his personal site.

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