Orthodoxy in America: the app!

A few days ago I downloaded the new Orthodoxy in America app from Orthodox Web Solutions. This free app is a mobile version of the popular Orthodoxy in America website, which is used by many people to find an Orthodox parish. I tested it out on my Moto E smartphone using wifi (I don’t use data unless I am traveling).

According to the app’s description, it “features a church locator for the parishes, monasteries, and seminaries of the Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Additionally, the app aggregates content from major Orthodox news and media providers with the goal of informing, educating, and inspiring.”

I’m not very interested in finding Orthodox content through my phone, so this first impression will be focused on the church location aspect of the app. The screenshots below are covered under fair use.

I am not a programmer. The following remarks are based on my experience as a user.

The start screen (left) is pretty snazzy, but I wasn’t a big fan of the home screen (right). The parish location button was small relative to the other content dominating the screen.

Since this review focuses on the church-finding aspect of this app, I’m not going to make a full comment on the other functions, but here’s a brief overview.

  • Through the News function you can look at articles from various Orthodox websites such as Pemptousia and Pravoslavie.ru.
  • The Social function allows you to see tweets and Facebook posts from Orthodox groups.
  • The Audio and Video functions offer podcasts and videos from Ancient Faith Radio, Orthodox Christian Network, &c.
  • 360 Tours links you to the various virtual tours of parishes developed by Orthodox 360, another project of Orthodox Web Solutions.
  • Finally, the Photos function shows you various photos with hashtags such as #orthodoxarchitecture and #liveorthodoxy.

I clicked on the Locator button and this is what I got:

Screenshot_2016-07-08-12-39-08

I use Japanese on my phone, so there is Japanese on the map.

The screen here looks identical to the desktop version of the Orthodoxy in America page. There is no “locate me” button so I had to manually put my city in the rather small bar at the top. If I was traveling and I didn’t know my exact location I would be in trouble. Here are my results:

The map (there are six states on that map!) was not useful unless I zoomed in. You can filter the listings by jurisdiction (GOA, ROCOR, &c.) and type (parish, monastery, &c.) but you can’t focus the search distance (eg. limiting results to a 15-mile radius). The list of parishes is helpful, but when I click on Detail Map it opens Google Maps within the app instead of letting me open it on my phone’s Google Maps app, making for a clunky user experience. In contrast, the desktop version opens the parish’s map in a new tab.

I hope I don’t come across as too harsh or offend anyone with this review, especially because this is a brand-new app. The people at Orthodox Web Solutions are doing great work in using today’s technology to spread the ancient faith. Orthodoxy in America is a very good-looking app with a great premise. It simply needs to improve certain aspects of its parish-finding function, namely by making an option for automatically locating the user using GPS/WiFi, allowing the user to set a search radius for finding parishes, and a more flexible interaction with Google Maps.

Whether or not you agree with my assessment, the app is completely free so there is no harm in downloading it and trying it out for yourself.

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