Best practices change with the wind, but here are our “right now” thoughts on digital magazine app publishing.
Our Mequoda Best Practices list continues to evolve. Last year certainly proved that standards – and even what is technologically possible – can change almost overnight.
Here’s a look at our current digital magazine app publishing best practices for your reference, with a few notes on what we expect might to change:
1. Magazine features readable design, either vertical reflow or responsive
We hate to make note of an app that we otherwise love because it fails this standard, but it’s going to become more important as time goes on, so we’ll keep urging publishers to go for it.
In any new technology, that which is old looks and feels useless quickly; and in tablet technology, this evolution seems to be moving faster than usual.
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2. Magazine is easy to navigate (instruction page, scrubber bar and instructional icons)
Very few magazines fail here. Bravo! Until magazine design and navigation become standard – and that seems far off in the future – you still have to help your readers get around.
As Mequoda partner Mag+ notes, people don’t want to feel stupid in your app. So the instruction page is absolutely crucial – and continued guidance is an even better idea, in the form of instructional icons throughout the magazine:
Don’t assume people will know to swipe or tap. Particularly in the first few pages of a document or issue, make the icons clear and visible—they can get more subtle as you get into the issue.
3. Magazine uses either portrait or landscape mode, preferably portrait
Mequoda believes that committing the time, manpower and money to designing for both modes is not the best use of your resources. We seem to be the only ones, however, and we haven’t reviewed or read a single magazine in the past year that didn’t offer both.
But really, if you want to skip the expense, you have our blessing. There are better things to spend your money on (see Design #1).
Not convinced? Then listen to Bob Levine, a graphic designer, digital publishing services consultant and Adobe Digital Publishing Suite expert:
While it may look like magic on an iPad, having two orientations for your folio is not magic. It involves creating two layouts for every article. Think carefully about whether it adds anything to the experience for the reader, since not only does it involve extra work, it also can double the file size of your folio.
1. Magazine uses available technology to enhance the reader experience
There isn’t a single digital consumer out there who doesn’t enjoy and appreciate embedded videos, photo galleries, audio and other additional content, as long as it adds to the reader experience and doesn’t distract from it.
Again, this is a better use for your resources than adding landscape mode to your magazine. Even if you have only a simple replica, at least add hyperlinks to related material on the Internet, including advertisers’ web pages.
2. Magazine includes updated daily content
All but a handful of digital magazines ignore this, yet it seems a no-brainer to us. In a world where consumers are literally surrounded by digital content day and night, you simply can’t hope to hold their attention by delivering content once a month, or even once a week.
3. Magazine app includes free content
Consumers absolutely hate opening up a “free” magazine app and finding nothing there but issues for sale. There’s absolutely no downside to including a free issue, or a sample issue, because it not only resolves this “free but not free” problem, but also helps convert visitors to subscribers.
1. Magazine app is free from glitches, crashes or other technical problems
This really goes without saying. Test, test, test, and then test your app again. Nothing sends users to the back button faster than app store reviews about your crashing app and other technical glitches.
2. Magazine includes interactive advertising
Those publishers who’ve jumped on this bandwagon early are finding modest success and steady revenue streams from it. Again, why ignore the technology available to you? It doesn’t have to be anything flashy, either – a simple link in the ad to the advertiser’s website to buy products is better than nothing.
3. Magazine features images that remain stationary when text is scrolled
These overlays are pretty high-tech, and we don’t expect smaller niche publishers to jump right in. However, we love the potential for advertising – imagine telling an advertiser that his ad will stay right next to an entire article, no matter how long it is! And Mag+, is extremely enthusiastic about this piece of technology.
This criteria will remain a Best Practice for now, though we’re keeping an eye on how practical it is for smaller niche publishers to adopt.
4. Magazine offers in-app purchases of books and/or special reports
Why would you overlook a new venue for sales?
5. Magazine has a tool for saving content
You’d think this would also be a no-brainer, because saved content turns into shared content, and it also builds long-term engagement with your publication. Oddly, some of the biggest names out there haven’t added this functionality to their digital magazines yet. Get a jump on them.
We’re wide open to other suggestions, of course! What do you think is mandatory for the digital magazines of 2015, heading into 2016?