SnapGuide: The Pocket Reference for The Universe (maybe)

Enough of this highfalutin education I’m paying for. I just learned how to roast cauliflower (perfectly), bottle beer, make duct tape feather earrings, and curl my hair with a straightening iron—all from the comforts of my iPhone. Mobile app SnapGuide intends to bring the world of “how-to” straight to the smartphone in a sexy and well-packaged way.

SnapGuide calls the claim to the “easiest way to make and share great looking guides,” and I don’t have much to argue with the, there. I question my need to make and share any sort of guide, but SnapGuide certainly does make it easy. The app is centered around three (really pretty) panes: Featured, Explore, and Create. Two other panes (Activity and Me) exist but they are pretty inconsequential at this point. Once selected, the guide interface opens itself up in surprising ways. Each step of the guide is treated like a card. That is, a card with beautiful text, rich images, and even embedded video.

There is even a social layer to add to the guide’s depth. Users can heart specific how-to’s (think Instagram) or comment on them to give the creator feedback. “Where do you get your fishing equipment from?” one user asks on a guide to “Catch Dungeness Crabs.” “Gus’ Discount Fishing Tackle,” replies the guide creator.

There’s an infectious nature to the way you jump between guides once immersed in the SnapGuide world. The app is really attractive (in a semi-cartoonish iOS way—too much stitching and particle textures) and the UI incredibly smooth. After learning how to “clean and render beeswax,” I was possessed by a need to search for the materials and get on my way. I learned how to change a bike tire only to later realize I do not own a bike, let alone one whose tire needs changing. I learned “how to paint cupcake nails” and after coming down from the exuberant high of tech-powered learning, I realized I didn’t own any nail polish remover.

Resigned to share my knowledge, I started to construct a guide of my own. The builder is dead simple yet surprisingly comprehensive. Within moments, I had created a guide with images, salient words, and a video of myself cooing like an owl. I had enough shame to not publish the guide—or perhaps it was selfishness as I don’t want the world privy to my methods to “entertain small woodland owls.

It’s important to compare the service to how to giants such as or WikiHow. And in comparison it becomes clear how dramatically different the services are. I am only one use case, but I never go to eHow to explore the DIY world. If I land on an eHow page, it’s because a Google search brought me there. eHow and WikiHow deliver results to a query, SnapGuide offers a hint of inspiration and spontaneity to the learning process. There’s a sort of whimsy that pervades the app that utilitarian guides lack.

I’m sure there are plenty of hobbyists who will contribute to the SnapGuide reference library, but I do wonder who will actually end up using the app. I’m caught up in the novelty of it (its mobile-focus, and iOS style), but doubt its substantial value in the long term. It might be a good place for a quick daydream, but I doubt I ever actually will do any of the marvelous things featured on SnapGuide. I’d love to make that Aerium, but for now, looking at someone do it will suffice.

It’s free. Download for iPhone.

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