Social News Site Prismatic Unveils Refreshing New Design

Last year, I declared Prismatic the king of social news. The web app used a combination of your social circle and user-selected topics to present news stories in a manner much like a feed reader: one at a time, flowing from top to bottom, and with traditional j/k key navigation.

Much as I loved the app, I stopped using it after a short while. The app was everything I said it was, but it didn't quite have that x factor to keep me coming back.

With the recent launch of a new redesign, the guys at Prismatic have again won me over. The new design is distinctly Google+-esque, with a three-column, card-based layout. It's simpler, much cleaner, and, frankly, beautiful.

Of course, all of that would mean nothing without a backend that balances power and finesse to provide highly relevant stories that users are actually interested in reading. Thankfully, Prismatic provides just that. Nearly every story in my endless stream is one I find highly relevant and interesting. Each story contains a small snippet of information beneath its thumbnail, including the Twitter account that you follow that shared the story, or the number of Prismatic users that shared it, and its category or keyword. Those clickable keywords are one of the best features of the app: if I'm reading a story about, say, the Cleveland Browns or Google, I can click the keyword and open a new view of stories on only that topic. All are still highly relevant, and (from what I can tell), presented in reverse-chronological order, so it's an easy way to catch up on the latest news in any given topic.

All this adds up to a nearly flawless experience. Part of that experience can be chalked up to the fact that I've been waiting so long for a decent news experience on the web. We all have our favorites on mobile, but the web has seriously lagged behind mobile in terms of dedicated social news apps. Flipboard has yet to come to the web (with the exception of user-created magazines), and I've tried nearly every other social news web app- Pulse, News.me, and Scoopinion, just to name a few. None (and, notably, not even Prismatic pre-redesign), were enough to keep me coming back.

We constantly refer to our Twitter streams as just that- a stream. In retrospect, though, it's not so much a stream as rushing rapids- once you step in, it's hard to extricate yourself. Prismatic, though, feels like a true stream, one that you can dip your toes in, relax for a bit, and effortlessly stand up and walk away. When I'm caught up with Twitter, and my feed reader is empty, it's Prismatic I can turn to for relevant, interesting stories in design, tech, philosophy, sports- whatever.

The new Prismatic can be seen at preview.getprismatic.com, but it's worth noting that I couldn't find a way to set up preferences from within the new design. For now, it appears that you'll have to click on the "Have Feedback?" button at the bottom of the screen, then click "go back to classic Prismatic" to change your preferences (like connecting to Twitter and listing your interests), coming back to the new version when you're finished.

There seems to be only one caveat, and that's that the mobile version of Prismatic isn't quite responsive yet. I'd expect that to change, of course, and when it does, the mobile site will be well worth a bookmark.

Bottom Line

When I called Prismatic the king of social news last year, I meant it, and the latest version only reinforces that title. Prismatic now occupies a permanently pinned tab in my browser.

Prismatic | @prismatic