There’s been a lot of buzz with the new iPad magazines that are appearing in the market, specially with the Wired one. There are two important facts that designers and magazine companies have to acknowledge, the iPad is a reading device, and you are selling text (ok, text with images, but the main content has to be read) and we were designing text for screens for years now, and with the exception of some pdf to flash magazines, all the content can be found on html websites.
The lessons learned over the past 15 years must be enough to prepare content for a reading device like the iPad without making the same mistakes over and over again, like trying to replicate print on screen or using offline world metaphors for content manipulation.
Today we live in an internet connected world, you can just ignore it in your app, it can’t be a sealed bottle floating alone, it must have the correct tools to manipulate and share your content, if you don’t do this, your audience will be forced by you to ditch your app and go online.
This issue brings a question I didn’t hear yet, what if we make our websites appropriates readings online apps that renders beautifully on the iPad? It can be done with a clever HTML5 coding and CSS. I think this is because they will have to start charging for reading websites, and the appstore brings the perfect artificial barrier to do that. Theres a little issue of connectivity speed, but it is an issue only on 3g, and soon, with 4g, it won be there anymore. Maybe this is just the start of the end of free content, but that deserves another time for thinking on its own.
So, looking to all these things, I came with a set of ideas that can contribute with the debate of what a reading app should behave.
They are a really bad idea. You don’t have the screen size or resolution to put two readable columns in there. You can see here starting with the ideal font size on a 1 column portrait layout, it can’t scale good to a 2 column landscape layout. The best option is to keep the one column. Of course depending not he content you can use other layout options, but for long text articles, you should keep it simple, readable.
As I said before, we haver years of experience designing for screens, and this proposed layout is not more that a starting point of what can be done. If you are looking for more concrete examples, you just can go and surf the web, there are excellent typographic centric websites.
Websites to the rescue again. We don’t need the page metaphor, we are used to scrolling content, pagination is not ideal too. And like the example here, you don’t need to learn new navigation tricks or gestures, or skim all the magazine to find what you are looking for.
The content on an article is not anymore all what an reader wants form you, he or she, wants to read other user comments, comment they selfs and know about related online content.
5. Content Manipulation
The user must be able to own the content, not just read it passively. They have to be able to copy, annotate and share it.
6 – Advertising
This is a really tricky one, we don’t like ads, we want to read without being interrupted with blinking banners, pop-over flash animations, etc. One idea is to have inline ads that don’t interfere with us, we just have to scroll a little more to continue our reading.
So, what a reading app for iPad should have:
- One principal column layout
- Screen optimized and adjustable typography size
- Simple gestures interface
- Internet dynamic content
- Built in browser
- Sharing an annotating tools
(copy, mail, instapaper, blog this, facebook like this, etc)
- Search function
- Non distractive advertisement
(please forget about cluttering all the app with banners)
There are a lot of really great interactive designers dying for making the ideal app for magazines, with a lot more and greater ideas than the ones I’m putting here. Just don’t ignore the past fifteen years of Internet experience we have.