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A Bible app focused on design and reading

Design is a passion of mine and a core component of OneSheep, but it’s been a long time since the Church took design seriously or had a passion for it. Perhaps it was the cathedrals that scatter England that people thought were a bit much’, though we all love to gaze at them. Or maybe it’s the frugal approach to stewardship Christian organisations have that leaves design taking a back seat. Either way the last few decades Christianity has shunned design, design thinking and general aesthetics. Much of the Churches output can be spotted a mile off often with the sniggers of naff’, cheesy’ or at best unprofessional’ associated with them.

NeuBible gaining secular attention

Then nearly a couple of years ago I came across NeuBible. The first clue this was going to be good was the fact I discovered it, first, through a secular business and innovation focused media outlet. I’ve always thought Christianity should be leading the way in design and innovation (yeah, again like we used to long before I was born), and to be honest this app is the first glimpse of of how that could happen. It’s been praised for it’s simplicity, it’s focus on reading and some have said Kindle or iBooks could learn a thing or two from this design.

It may come as no surprise it’s taken an ex-Apple designer and a design director at Yahoo to bring this about in their spare time. But the vision and thought behind it is really quite simple. As Kory Westerhold, one of the pair comments, the goal was to get rid of everything between you and scripture.”

Distraction free reading

So, how did they do in that regard? Once you’re in the app and reading, that is very literally the case. As you read and scroll scripture, the UI melts away. There isn’t even the status bar. The entire screen is a dedicated canvas given over to scripture. Combined with already great default typography you have fine grain controls to switch the type face, size and line height, and even a night reading mode. Here they achieved a big win. Reading the Bible is a delightful experience.

The rest of the app is really quite simple too. A few settings to switch bible translation and colour theme and place for viewing bookmarks and highlighted verses.

Designing Bible navigation

The innovation and design comes mainly in the way you navigate scripture and find your verses. It’s quite different, but very fast and very intuitive. I had the chance to test this during a UX workshop for a different project. We gave the phone to users who’d never seen the app before. We deliberately had a passage open so there was no UI on the screen. Within just a few seconds everyone figured it out and were switching between passages and reading with ease.

Without going into a lot of detail (go try it out for yourself) you can swipe and slide between books and chapters with well defined gestures and hidden menu elements. It’s one of the quickest apps to switch between two different parts of the Bible. this makes it my go to in a sermon to quickly look up a passage being talked about.

The downsides, if you want to do more than just read the Bible you won’t find that here. There’s no reading plans, note taking, commentary or verse sharing, but much of that is to it’s credit. Personally, if there were reading plans and perhaps a reminder function it would probably be my only Bible app, but I’m very much aware that opens up a whole load of other potential features, tweaks and improvements and design problems, which perhaps Quiet Pupil (and Hippo), the developers, have wisely steered clear of.

In short, if you want the best reading experience or want to see a rare Christian product that is making secular designers take notice, then go grab NeuBible on the App Store, it’s well worth the £2.99 app cost.

Posted on Oct 27, 2016 by Sam Peckham

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