Creating a Magazine Layout: Interactive Digital Magazine Elements Users Love

Creating a magazine layout that includes interactivity is one more key toward selling more digital magazine subscriptions

It’s true that users prefer familiarity in digital magazines. As soon as you begin creating digital magazine apps that require an instruction manual to learn, many users tend to get frustrated. That’s why we think when designing a reflowed version of your digital magazine, that you save the bells and whistles for usability (like scrollable text) and interactive elements that act as add-ons to the magazine, rather creating a magazine layout that confuses readers.

If you’re wondering what kind of interactive elements you should add when creating a magazine layout for a digital app, here are a few ideas:

Scrollable text. Since we started our annual Digital Magazine Survey to help publishers home in on digital magazine design, the number one feature desired by digital magazine readers is readability, followed by scrollable text. This is text that you don’t need to pinch and zoom like a PDF that you’ll find in basic replica editions, but in more advanced editions like reflow-plus.


Free issues. Outside of bugs and glitches, one major complaint in the app store for many magazine apps, is that there isn’t a free issue to preview in the app. If you want your app to get a good rating, you should start by including a free, sample issue.

Video. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, 50% of percent of mobile data traffic comes from video.  Bonnier Senior Consumer Marketing Director Bob Cohn is no stranger to using video in their digital magazines. And he says with interactive technology in digital magazines, “engagement, time spent, and retention all go way up,” he notes. And those enhancements, of course, are exactly the things digital advertisers are seeking. In fact, if digital magazine advertising strategies were a poker game, Bonnier has called and raised the stakes exponentially. Tap to interact? Embedded video? That’s just everyday advertising for Bonnier.

E-commerce. If you sell products, don’t shy away from selling them within your digital magazine app. Luxury online retail shop Net-a-Porter has a magazine called Porter, which has been called the magazine that will eat Vogue for lunch. The big tagline on the cover of the Apple store is “Click and Shop Everything You See.” It’s basically a catalog disguised as a magazine, because kids these days don’t know what catalogs are and they’re paying $25 a year for it. It’s also sold in 30,000 retail stores.

Gamification. As a commenter on our blog once put it, “I think that people need to realize that many magazine apps are really boring, we as Apple users or any kind of app user need to come up with an app that will keep people busy for a long time. When you are traveling you want games to play. When you are bored and sitting at home, you want something to do right?” Can you add a tab to your magazine that includes a game? A crossword puzzle? Or even a tool that helps readers accomplish a task.

Music. SPIN‘s digital magazine got the music part down when they launched it in 2011. I bet music lovers rejoiced when SPIN launched their digital magazine complete with audio playlists for each issue. If I recall correctly, SPIN used to include a sample mix CD with issues of their magazines—one of the main benefits of becoming a subscriber. So it makes complete sense to add a playlist to their digital magazine subscription. They quite literally added the perfect bells and whistles to their app. Since then, we’ve seen several other music magazines follow suit.

Ways to bookmark and share content. We’ve always liked Forbes too. The Forbes digital magazine app launched in 2013 and went above and beyond any other app of its kind at the time. The clipping tool was one of the most unique features that any digital magazine app had offered at the time. Subscribers can share articles, or snippets from an article, photos, and more with their social networks.

Searchability. PCMag’s review of Condé Nast’s free Epicurious app notes that users can “find recipes by main ingredient, course, cuisine, dietary consideration, and dish type, and even by season or occasion,” making it a snap to find exactly the right recipe no matter what the occasion or need. If you’re too sick to cook, however, you’ll want to open WebMD’s free iPad app, where you can search through symptoms to identify your condition, all without having to navigate the much more complex WebMD website.

And Mother Earth News (MEN), a top Mequoda practitioner, offers more practical, high-quality apps than almost any other magazine we know of, such as apps to help users decide when to plant, design gardens and can their produce. Two of these apps, in fact, have been recognized by WIRED as top apps in their categories. MEN’s apps are so popular with users and advertisers alike, “We’ve paid off our development costs with advertising sponsorships and sales in short order,” reports Publisher Bill Uhler. Now that’s high-quality content!

What else would you add to this list? As a consumer and not just a publisher, what would make you download more magazine apps?




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