The Guinness Book of Records is as much a cherished tradition as it is a book - so when it came to updating it for the age of mobile digital, Guinness World Records' head of digital Katie Forde and her team were highly selective. Having opted not to do an ebook, they were delighted when rumours about the iPad first surfaced.
"We looked at the Kindle and the Sony Reader, but they didn't fit," explains Forde. "Much of the appeal of the book - particularly for younger readers - is the pictures. And now, with our website, we have around 700 hours of video capability, which we wanted to bring in as well."
Forde says that the team was immediately excited about the depth of content that's possible with the iPad, and set to work with digital agency Brandwidth to develop an app - but with Apple being cagey about releasing any details about the device, they were essentially designing in the dark, with very few clues as to the exact specifications of the device. "There was a lot of frustration from the developers," admits Forde.
However, with a lot of educated guesswork and some luck, they've put together a first draft - Guinness World Records Lite - well ahead of the iPad's UK launch. Katie Forde talked us through it.
"We went for a neutral theme for the app - it's meant to be an additional offering to the book, rather than mirroring it precisely," she says, adding that the iPad's screen is crisp, clear and brilliant for presenting images, allowing a completely immersive experience. The device also allows them to present all sorts of additional content, including video. "This is a another level for us."
The app uses some nifty parallax scrolling to move between main screens, giving it a neat 3D feel. Forde and her team have also made use of the full space of the screen to make the app as easy to navigate as possible. You scroll between screens with a two-fingered multitouch motion, or access different records by pulling them up from the bottom of the screen. You move through galleries with a simple tap.
Although it's still in its early stages, with only the most popular categories available - most deadly, fastest, most expensive and more - Katie says that the app has had a big effect behind-the-scenes, changing the way that Guinness World Records generates and organises its content. As it's now creating content for the web, the app and the book, new processes were needed.
"It's really made us streamline and integrate all our content - it's been the perfect catalyst," says Forde. "We're also looking at how we can create more interactive content," such as 360º photoshoots of people and objects so that people can manually rotate models in the app.
In its first version, Guinness World Records Lite has 140 records, and the team is mulling how to integrate it with the book and website. For example, should they update it once a year, when the book annual is released? Or should they constantly update it as new records are broken?
The decisions that Forde, her team, and Brandwidth faced are currently being faced by interactive designers across the world as they come to grips with the iPad's functionality and try to grasp where the device fits into our electronic lives.