The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is the newest big name news source to have a Universal Windows App (UWA). While not technically a new appearance in the Windows Store, the new upgrade to UWA brings several improvements in user interface, performance and usability. Let’s have a look.
My first experience with the new app was not a smooth one, as the first setup ended at the edition choice (WSJ app now offers 5 editions of the paper from US, Europe, Asia, Korea, and Japan), before the app crashed. Subsequent uses, however, have been great, albeit with a little chugging here and there in loading articles. Beware that while the app is free, you can only read a few articles before being forced to subscribe at a fee.
The app follows the Windows 10 design guideline tightly, down to the bottom actions menu to compliment the main hamburger up on the top right. The user interface is clean and minimal, almost spartan. With the liberal amount of white empty space being used, a dark theme would be much more appreciated by the eyes, however. Picture slideshow and videos work as advertised (the video player’s UI, especially, is a carbon copy of Microsoft’s stock Movies app, down to icons; no options to change video resolution, however).
The reading experience itself, while quite good, leaves things to be desired. Texts are crisp and well-formatted, but are confined to one column of about one third of the app window itself; there is no option to use the almost criminally wasted two sides to view anything. Zooming options are offered via buttons in the bottom action menu (no pinch-to-zoom), however, they do little to alleviate the claustrophobic feeling of reading only the middle of the screen. Also, as previously mentioned, a dark theme, or reading mode would be greatly appreciated here. There is an option to download articles for offline reading; however, the location of downloaded articles is a bit too well-hidden, near the bottom of the hamburger menu.
Overall, the upgrade is a good effort from the WSJ developer at improving the experience of the app, which allegedly has been quite unsatisfactory from user reviews; some improvements in the reading experience would be greatly welcomed, however. WSJ readers should definitely give it a try (or another try). We are looking forward to how the app will evolve in the future.