Free. Focuses on key endangered species. Beautiful photos. Elegant design. Some fun flourishes like instructions to make origami versions of the animals. Social media friendly.
Information about each species is rather cursory. Heavy on the WWF promotion. Navigation isn't intuitive.
- Bottom Line
The WWF Together iPad app educates users about 16 at-risk species. It's free and provides some good, if cursory, information, but sometimes feels a bit like an ad for the WWF.
By Tony Hoffman
WWF Together, a free iPad app from the World Wildlife Fund, focuses on 16 endangered species that the leading conservation organization has worked to protect. This elegantly designed app provides key facts about each animal, including threats to its existence, photos of the creature, and a globe showing its range. WWF Together also contains some fun flourishes, such as instructions on creating an origami representation of each animal, as well as virtual origami animals you can insert into photos for sending to friends or posting on social media. WWF Together is of most appeal to WWF members who want to know more about the charity's conservation efforts and share this information with others. While this is a worthy cause, the app comes across as a bit heavy on self-promotion for the WWF, however.
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Design and Features
The app's introduction features a cute animation in which a sheet of paper folds itself into a panda and is joined by other origami pandas that gather around the organization's logo (itself a panda) and the quote "Together we can conserve nature and protect the diversity of life on Earth." This attention to togetherness speaks to the collective nature of the organization, as well as the app's focus on sharing on social media. Touching the word Start, which appears below the box, takes you into the app.
You begin in the giant panda section, where you find a screen-filling panda photo and the word "Charisma" in large type. Each of the 16 animals depicted in the app has its own descriptive word highlighted in the opening page of its section. For elephants, it's Intelligence, and for monarch butterflies, it's Perseverance. The other species featured in the app are tigers, bison, snow leopards, polar bears, whales, rhinos, gorillas, sharks, jaguars, orangutans, dolphins, and penguins.
Entering the giant panda section takes you to a page featuring a quote explaining how the panda is a conservation icon that draws attention to endangered species worldwide, and how it has become a conservation success story, more than doubling its population in the past 35 years. This entry page is overlaid with navigation instructions, encouraging you to swipe vertically or horizontally to move through the section's pages. You tap an origami panda at the screen's left-hand edge to pick another animal, tap an X in the upper right-hand corner to close the overlay, or tap a Got It icon at lower left to stop showing the overlay. This overlay is important, because it isn't obvious how the app's navigation works. Once you get the hang of it, though, you should be able to close the overlay forever.
The content varies from animal to animal—the giant panda has a three-by-three grid of pages to swipe through, while the penguin's grid is three by two, for example—but retains a similar structure. The opening page contains a very brief description of the species in question and conservation efforts surrounding it. Another page has thumbnails of the creature. Tapping one pulls up a full-screen photo. Tapping an Information ("i") icon at the lower left overlays a brief description of the photo or fact about the animal onscreen.
Another page gives basic information on the creature's population, habitat, weight, and distance (from the app user). For instance, with the orangutan, its population in the wild is as few as 50,000, forests are its habitat, its weight is up to 200 pounds, and the distance is 9,862 miles (from where I am in New York City). The creature's range is mapped in blue on a rotatable globe. Another page details up to three threats that the species faces. Common ones include habitat loss, climate change, and illegal trade (poaching).
The introduction page, photo captions, threat page, and data page give you some highlights of the species in question, but they are cursory—more like bullet points than in-depth educational information. The app's design has an open feel that is visually appealing, but at the risk of cramping the design, I would have liked more detailed descriptions, even if only a few paragraphs.
As mentioned earlier, tapping the species icon at the screen's left-hand edge lets you access the sections for the other species, each of which is identified by name and its own origami icon. The species icon is the topmost of three icons at the left edge of the screen. The bottom icon, depicting three lines of text, takes you to a page titled WWF in Apple News, which shows you stories by or about WWF.
The middle icon is composed of three crosses. Tapping it sends you to a page titled Together Possible, encouraging you to share an animal's story. In the screen's upper right corner are buttons titled Email signup, which puts you on WWF's email list and More ways to help, which reveals buttons for following WWF on social media, donating to the organization, symbolically "adopting" an animal, visiting the WWF's website, or sharing a link to the app on social media.
Be forewarned that everything in the Together Possible section is about supporting or promoting the WWF, which feels like nearly as much the focus of the app as the species themselves. It's not unusual that organizations use free apps as a promotional tool, but WWF Together is more explicit, with a higher promotion-to-content ratio. The BBC's Attenborough Story of Life app is an example of a better approach, one that effectively serves to promote BBC nature videos as well as being a tribute to documentarian Sir David Attenborough's work.
When you first open the Together Possible page, a rain of origami animals falls from the top of the screen and comes to rest at the bottom. Tapping an animal opens a page that lets you insert an image of the origami animal into a photo—either one you've just taken or one from your camera roll—and save it, email it, or share it on social media, along with a link to the iTunes page for the WWF Together app. At the page's lower right-hand corner is a link titled Origami Instructions, which takes you to a pictorial section on how to make the animal from paper. The instructions are reasonably clear, although a little small on the screen of my iPad Air 2, so it helped to stretch the image for easier reading. I was able to create a credible origami monarch butterfly.
Wild for WWF?
The WWF Together app focuses on 16 flagship species the World Wildlife Fund is working to protect. It provides important if cursory information on each animal, plus a series of gorgeous photos. It also includes some fun flourishes, like instructions on creating origami animals. Much of the focus of the app—maybe too much—is on the WWF and its conservation efforts, and on getting people exposed to and involved in its work. Although the app provides useful information, it comes across a bit too much like commercial for the organization for my liking (and I say that as a WWF member and supporter). That said, this free app is a good resource for learning about some key at-risk or endangered species, the threats they face, and what is being done to maximize their chances of survival.
As Analyst for printers, scanners, and projectors, Tony Hoffman tests and reviews these products and provides news coverage for these categories. Tony has worked at PC Magazine since 2004, first as a Staff Editor, then as Reviews Editor, and more recently as Managing Editor for the printers, scanners, and projectors team. In addition to editing, Tony has written articles on digital photography and reviews of digital cameras, PCs, and iPhone apps Prior to joining the PCMag team, Tony worked for 17 years in magazine and journal… More »
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