Apple's introduction of the iPad has truly excited the magazine community. The "lean back" digital experience the tablet offers is a bridge to a future where the expert curation, beautiful design, enjoyable discovery, and effective brand marketing magazines uniquely package can translate effectively on a digital platform.
Possibilities are endless. In turn, there's a great amount of creativity and idea generation brewing inside our industry.
For the past year, I've been immersed in a wide range of tablet-specific digital magazine experiments while leading the App Lab team at Hearst Magazines. We have pushed many boundaries in an attempt to master what it takes to make a great magazine app experience. While it's tempting to bring traditional digital conventions and lessons learned to any new project on a digital device, Hearst, having published more than 50 apps and digital editions so far, has quickly learned that the tablet requires its own set of rules:
Readers do not want clutter in their tablet experience. Too many options are paralyzing and negatively impact design. Presented properly, beautiful design and clean aesthetics give users comfort that allows them to be receptive to discovery. This is the essence of magazines and our readers have confirmed this is what they want.
Digital magazines should be fun and effective entertainment experiences. Consumers should not have to work hard to be entertained. Navigation should not require a manual. Readers must be able to dive directly into the experience, move rapidly, and not have to think about how to do simple things such as turn a page or interact.
When you introduce interactivity and want to guide a user to swipe or tap, be obvious and clear. Don't get too cute and subtle. The genius of gesture-based navigation is its simplicity.
Content must be kept front and center. Space is at even more of a premium on a tablet. The page is almost digest-size on the just less than 10-inch iPad screen and even smaller on some newer de-vices. Every title has the same virtual "paper" stock. And while the tablet is capable of much more than displaying words and text, words and text remain the vital elements of a digital magazine.
Interactivity and multimedia are both vital, but it is important to find their proper place and make them additive, not dominant, to the experience.
Chris Wilkes is VP of digital editions at Hearst Magazines.