10 Valuable iPad Magazine Design Tips
The digital publishing software that is currently available to publishers is limiting in its ability to create truly interactive magazines, which makes it even more important that we get it right or risk losing readers forever. As software improves, so will the ﬁnal product, but it is imperative we use what tools we have to create the best publication possible.
During my experiences developing digital magazines for the web and iPad, weʼve learned some best practices for design. These were learned through our own trial and error as well as ofﬂine testing with people unfamiliar with our magazine. Itʼs easy to get too close to the design of your digital magazine and miss a lot of subtle functionality and usability issues.
Horizontal only design for panels
When you read a print magazine, do you fold the magazine in half and read one page at a time? Then why would you design your digital magazine vertically? A horizontal design not only presents a story in the more common spread format but it is also lends itself to more visual design.
Vertical scroll for each individual story
When you have a feature with a higher word count, donʼt spread it over numerous spreads. Instead, try building the story within a scrolling vertical page, incorporating images, graphics and multimedia along the way. This creates simpler navigation, eliminates the guesswork of how many spreads a story extends and reduces the total page count so reading your content rich publication doesnʼt feel overwhelming.
Larger, easy to ﬁnd interactive icons
Readers are still getting accustomed to using digital magazines, plus there is no uniform design format, so make sure your icons are large and easy to ﬁnd. Why go through the extra expense of supplementing your written story, only to have your readers blow past the extra goodies.
Scrolling text boxes
Itʼs bad enough many publishers simply create gloriﬁed pdf replicas of their print publications and stick it on the iPad. Others exacerbate that mistake by having page after page of nothing but text when running one of their longer features. Itʼs like reading
a phone book. A great tool for eliminating this is a scrolling text box. With the ﬂick of a ﬁnger, a reader can scroll through the text, which makes for simple navigation, a cleaner design and uninterrupted engagement. Be sure to clearly note with an arrow or clear direction that the text is scrollable.
When possible, contain design within one panel
For shorter stories, especially front of the book items, try to contain all of the information on one panel. If your text wonʼt ﬁt on one panel, use a scrolling text box. Supplement that with any multimedia to keep all of the information for that feature on one spread. This makes for a clean design and easy navigation.
Larger, call to action text by icons
When we tested our issues, it seemed like no matter how large we made our icons and call to action, that someone would still miss one of our extras. Publishers are investing signiﬁcant resources into creating original multimedia to include with the written word
and it would be a shame if readers are blowing right past it. Make the icons and call to action text large and place the icons in a prominent location.
Scroll down icons
If you have a story that extends beyond a single spread, make sure to have a clear directive to guide the reader either to scroll right or down. Some publishers get too cute by building in slidebars, or arrows that are high on design and low on functionality and that is a mistake. The quickest way to lose a reader is for them to feel like they donʼt know how to navigate through the issue.
Larger text font
One of our early challenges was making sure we used a font that was easy to read on the tablet. At ﬁrst, we simply replicated the same font size that we used in the print publication, but that ultimately proved to be to small, so we bumped it up a size. Donʼt go to large print format, but be aware of potentially readability issues.
Use play icon with embedded video players
Youʼve probably seen how when an embedded video on YouTube or many other web sites are on a page, that a still image sits in the frame until the video is played. Well, we learned that on the iPad, many readers mistook that as a photo and didnʼt know they
were supposed to tap the image to play the video. We solved that by putting the universal icon for a play button, a sideways triangle, on top of the image. Many more people caught on to the fact that they were supposed to watch a video.
Once publishing software evolves and offers more tools for creating truly interactive digital magazines for tablets, many of these design issues will become moot. But for now, while we are limited in our software choices and equally limited in their ability. We
need to create the most engaging magazine that is both compelling and easy to use and hopefully these tips can help you do so.