Today, NYT is releasing their new cooking app for iPad. We were impressed by the experience on the desktop, but a small design detail in the iPad version has us smitten: Whenever you tap on a recipe tile, it zooms in seamlessly, as if the recipe were always waiting there on your screen.
Aesthetically, this zooming animation is similar to what you’ll find inside iOS 7’s Photo app, and any time you multitask. It also harkens a bit to Google’s Material Design philosophy, in which objects on your screen tend to stretch or resize rather than just disappear or cut away.
Zooming into recipes creates a very different experience than tapping on a recipe to be taken to another page. There’s a fundamental elasticity that doesn’t corner you, the user, into one single recipe. You know intrinsically that you can back out of a recipe as easily as hopping in, and that leads you (or at least, it led us) to explore more recipes without the fear of commitment. Research studies (pdf) pinpoint why this may be the case–apparently zooming interfaces reduce cognitive load because they allow our brain’s natural spatial reasoning to do the heavy lifting of navigation.
But as far as the zooming itself goes, we think the NYT team got the inertia just right. The effect looks nice enough in these GIFs, but it really just feels fantastic on your iPad. And apps like Instagram, Vimeo, Pinterest–or really, anywhere that we may want to enlarge media or get more information–could do well by following suit.