Launching the app, you are hit with a sign up screen. Unlike Instagram, Amen doesn’t reveal any of its content before sign up. That’s disappointing although at least they do not force you to use a Facebook account.

After signup, you are taken to a screen full of updates by users you are supposedly already following. Amen has taken the unfortunate decision to automatically follow all existing users in your Facebook friends (who will get a notification about it) regardless of whether you intended to follow them or not. This list is completed by a selection of what appears to be recommended users (staff and early investors in the startup it seems). While a full screen greeting you after sign up is better than an empty one, Amen could have redirected you to the Popular section and let you follow your friends (and recommended users) at your own pace and will.

Although the app could do a better job at leading you to share your own “stands about the best or worst people, places, things and ideas”, the sheer number of opinions already shared on Amen stand for how responsive and smart the input interface feels. Your first opinion on a place is prefilled with the closest point of interest in your neighborhood. It even recognizes the type of restaurant you enter and will offer pre-filled statements for People and Things in case you run out of inspiration. A future version of the app will hopefully suggest more personally relevant content (pulled out of my Likes on Facebook for example) than the random statements about Matt Damon or Michael Jordan.

App: Amen
Our Grade: B
Reviewed by Paul

Path’s first run is designed to seduce you into trusting the app to help you share intimate moments and thoughts with your closest friends and family. The red linen start screen resembles the cover of a well made dairy. They illustrate the core concepts and functionality of the app via a fictional conversation between a mother and daughter.Instead of creating an “account” you create a “path”, and instead of starting your new “path” with a username, you start it with a photo and your real name.

Path introduces several new UI conventions, including a hovering timestamp and fanning toolbar. Though both are tiny and sit on top of the visually busy “path” of content, the Path team has made both instantly discoverable during the first run. The toolbar fans out from its plus icon the first time you view your path, and the hands of the clock spin as you scroll through content.

The first run experience also removes as many clicks as possible from the account creation process, while gathering quite a lot of personal information. Rather than asking you to type your email address, the app pulls it from your address book. To many people’s surprise, Path was doing other things with your address book which make it difficult to give this first run unconditional praise, there are still more good practices to learn from its design than not.

App: Path
Our Grade: B
Reviewed by Chris

After a low-pressure welcome overlay encouraging sign up, Instagram throws you into its best content, the most popular pictures of the moment.

When you’re ready to sign up, Instagram helps you fill in the details by suggesting data already on your phone. Unlike a number of other popular apps, Instagram only suggests Twitter or Facebook sign-ins as one of the ways to retrieve your profile picture.

Before you know it, you’re choosing which of your contacts to follow on Instagram. This step could be improved by a preview of their latest shots shared by each contact and an indication of their activity volume.

The last step is a presentation of Suggested Users; a smart way to ensure a steady stream of great photos right from the start, and inspire you to take and share your best shots. 

App: Instagram
Our Grade: A-
Reviewed by Paul 

Clear’s first run is massively anti-climatic. The 7-step how-to slideshow leading into the app with uninspiring photography and typography ruins all the magic and expectation that had built up thanks to raving pre-release press and demo videos. A frustrating counter example of the elegant Flipboard.

However, Clear’s success is deserved and will remain a massive inspiration for all app designers willing to push the boundaries of interaction design to create fresh new products in software categories as crowded as the to-do app segment.

App: Clear
Our Grade: C
Reviewed by Paul 

Flipboard first run starts with a sonatina of careful copywriting, breathtaking photography and interaction design. They know that the “flip” is a new gesture for most users and teach it by showing, not explaining.

They seed your Flipboard by asking you to choose just a few categories, and introduce their Cover Stories with a Cover Story. No tutorial, you learn through doing.

App: Flipboard
Our Grade: A
Reviewed by Chris 

Stone’s (new) Twittelator Neue’s UI is very slick and its creators know that. The first run was designed to set expectations pretty high, give premium visibility to its creators (and eventually let you see your timeline in all its bouncy and smooth self.)

Unfortunately, being taken through a few too many screens before seeing your timeline, near-forced to follow the geeky developers (are they looking for a date?), abruptly invited to shell out another $1.99 for 1 year of notifications (after having literrally just bought the app $2.99 a minute earlier) will probably make it really hard to send your followers the sneakily pre-loaded tweet draft calling the app “the ultimate iPhone twitter app”.

App: Twittelator Neue
Our Grade: C
Reviewed by Paul