Designing a Reader-Friendly Digital Edition
Critics of digital magazines often cite āflat presentationā and small fonts as drawbacks of the medium. Itās also a problem when publishers force in too much rich media that actually detracts from, rather than enhances, the reader experience.
However, there are ways to make the product more engaging. Folio: spoke with several vendors about what tips they share with clients on how to make a reader-friendly digital edition.
1. Layout and Aspect: Landscape, not portrait. While mobile is increasingly becoming a priority, most digital magazines are still designed for computer screens, which typically means a landscape as opposed to portrait format.
"It is more about aspect ratio than raw size as we will scale based on width,ā said Trish Connolly, CEO of Advanced. āThe best ratio that fits most monitors is a 1:1.6 (h:w) ratio.Ā For example 8" high by 12.8" wide (or 8.5 x 14).ā
Texterity advises 14ā x 8.5ā as it fits a standard computer screen and prints well on legal or letter-sized paper in landscape mode. āOne way a digital edition differs from a Web site is that it feels paginated and laid out,ā said senior vice president of marketing and business development Cimarron Buser.
Use bright colorful graphics and bullets. āIn some ways, designing a digital edition is like designing a magazine cover,ā said Buser. āYouāre trying to create that same sense of excitement.ā
Give the reader control where it makes sense. āLet the reader control the point size and anything else to make the experience enjoyable,ā said Campion Primm, creative director with Zinio and VIVmag.
2.Ā Fonts: Think big. āThe font needs to be larger than a print magazine so zooming isnāt necessary to read the book,ā said Jeremy Smith, design manager for Nxtbook Mediaās custom publishing group.
Use spacing to your advantage. āOne that has good spacing between the letters helps with the resulting clarity,ā said Connolly.
Take a cue from some print versions, such as Readerās Digest. āThe original Reader's Digest works perfectly,ā said Buser. āThereās less density and more white space. Organic Style is an example of a magazine that has a large font sizeāthings are spread out, but you know itās a magazine.ā
Specific font choices vary widely, but most digital magazine vendors say a Sans Serif font works. However, Smith recommends avoiding Serif fonts as they may fade out on some monitors.
Keep an eye out for future font developments. āDavid Berlow, Roger Black and The Font Bureau are developing better versions of fonts that render on every screen,ā said Primm. āFont clarity is the most important aspect of any digital publication solution. The equivalent in paper would be show-through on your (paper) stock and screen resolution.ā
3.Ā Ā Ā Leading: Think even bigger.Ā Leading should be four to five points more than font size, according to Smith. This gives more white space and allows the eye to flow through the text.
4.Ā Ā Ā Interactive: Make links visible. The use of hotlinks throughout the articles gets readers more involved by taking them to more in-depth articles or videos.
However, if youāre including URLs, make sure readers can see them. āEven for magazines that are using a traditional page layout, make sure the URL is above the fold and not buried at the bottom in tiny little font,ā said Buser. āIn some cases, advertisers may have multiple places to send people or a call to action such as āclick here to go to our Web site.ā Sounds obvious, but youād be surprised how many people donāt do that. If youāre thinking about print ads, you're not thinking about accessing it from computer screen."
5. Rich Media: It helps, but donāt get too cute. Smith says publishers should consider some Flash within the cover, articles or ads. āDo things that you canāt do in print to make it more appealing,ā he said.
However, donāt go overboard. āWhatās the point of a magazine?ā said Buser. āReading. You want to complement that experience without taking it over and turning it into a giant Flash presentation. If every single page has a video that opens up, a lot of people donāt like that because they feel like they donāt have control over the experience, especially in a b-to-b environment, where people are reading at work.ā
Readers who spend too much time downloading or waiting for content to load will go elsewhere. āTheir time is important and digital publishers must be respectful of that,ā said Primm.
Publishers may want to include a play-on-demand component instead.
6. Folio Size: Stay smaller than print. Digital magazines can offer a more interactive experience than print, but the trade off is the digital version should have fewer pages than print. Most people donāt want to read a hundred page magazine on-screen.