Bracewell & Giuliani LLP released its ShalePlay app that provides a resource on shale gas and hydrologic fracturing. Features of the app include:
- News aggregated from a variety of key sources
- Updates on related legislation and regulation
- Interactive map of shale plays
- Glossary of common terms
- Historical timeline of hydraulic fracturing
- Analysis from the firm’s attorneys
Overall, we liked the app, but a number of the user interface elements need further refinement.
On the positive side:
- Bracewell & Guiliani definitely put time into planning the different parts of the app as well as incorporating real graphic design. Many law firm mobile apps don’t have much of a thoughtful look-and-feel.
- Overall, the app conveys that the firm has a significant commitment to assisting clients in the shale sector.
- The app incorporates many content sources (the negative side of this is mentioned in the next section).
- There are separate app versions for iPhone and tablet/iPad users as well as Android.
- The shale play map is a nice touch (although the limited amount of information shown for a given shale location was a little disappointing).
- The “When to Play” concept is a creative approach to showing the history of fracking.
- The home page of the app presents the different areas of the app in an attractive fashion.
- The “Our Attorneys” section presents a unique interface appropriate for touch screen devices.
On the needs improvement side:
- One of our biggest critiques with this app is that fact that many of the information sources are clearly outside the app itself (and from third-party sources). A user should not feel like he or she is being kicked-out of the app to other sources. (And for “Shale Sources”, the app literally does kick the user out to the Safari web browser.) Furthermore, even on a decent wifi-connection, some pages still had a delay in downloading and showing the content.
- The interface to accessing news sources is a bit awkward. For the iPad, as one drills down from one level of information to another (e.g., News Type to Special Item to actual text), a new overlapping window is created.
- There are a number of areas where the font size of the text is too small (e.g., like the History section mentioned above).
- In the biography area, it is difficult to view the team as a whole or to find one particular attorney — the price-is-right style wheel takes a few turns to see everyone. Also, the font size of the attorney descriptive text is a bit small for good readability.
- The graphic Shale History requires too much effort from the user to see the information. Put another way, the amount of total screen dedicated to the content is pretty small compared to the screen as a whole.
Overall, this app does have good promise and could be an excellent app by addressing a range of the user interface issues.