Digital Publishing has just begun, so what is holding YOU back?
When Apple introduced the iPad about a year ago, Digital Publishing was officially kick-started. By now, you have surely seen some publications and tested some content-apps with your own very tapping fingers.
The interesting (and sometimes annoying) reality is that there isn’t really a standard for user experience in apps. Some publishers try the flipbook style (almost PDF-like), others try to spice it up by using page stacks, and others take an approach more Web pages.
The annoying thing can be that the reader often doesn’t know which elements are interactive —what can be tabbed (touched) or swiped or moved.
The Web has one advantage here: Hyperlinks are usually underlined or marked with an icon. Also, your mouse cursor can help to show hyperlinked elements because the mouse cursor changes when you hover above them. As a tablet does not have a mouse cursor nor the authority to change your finger tip (maybe in future we’ll see sensoric feedback to your fingertips), apps should really offer a different way of making sure the reader understands what and how something is interactive, or that it is a trigger for something to play, jump or move.
And that’s where your big chance is if you dare to rise up to the challenge now rather than wait for others to act first. Not only can you benefit from the hype (by being early in the market), it also means that iPad users will try out and read your content if you make it compelling, new, unique, interesting, and tailored to the device. As there are no set rules yet and readers are longing for usable and interesting ways of presenting content, your fresh idea for iPad design might just hit the spot and get the highest attention.
One way of achieving this could be by using a scrollable area. Think of a scrollable area like a text box. Only, with Quark App Studio it can be much more: it can be a fully-fledged layout with all bells and whistles, pictures, text running around pictures, even multimedia objects like videos and slideshows.
Scrollable areas have four advantages — three for the reader and one for you:
First, you can put more content on the tablet screen than it could normally hold without sacrificing readability. As you can put complete layouts into a scrollable area, it also won’t look like a text desert, as there will be pictures, icons and even multimedia elements like videos playing within the scrollable area. You can help your reader understand that an area is scrollable by letting the Quark App Studio automatically dim its edges.
Secondly, by using a container page for each article or section you can prevent the reader from having to swipe through hundreds of pages and page stacks, helping them to find their way around your app and making your content feel native to a tablet.
Both techniques help usability and make the app much more interesting.
Thirdly, when you use the powerful new ability of scrollable areas to change the surrounding page based on the content currently displayed in the scrollable area, you can create your own narrative worlds. For example, maybe you have different categories you write about in the same article, such as Seasons of the year. If you put the article into a scrollable area, you could swap the background image or change the color scheme of the entire page based on the Season displayed in the scrollable area. Now that’s tailoring content to a tablet: all your communication happens on one page and can still be rich, elaborate, diverse and most important of all, new and interesting.
The fourth advantage of this approach is not to be underestimated by anyone designing content, articles or stories: you can create content once and reuse it in different apps, in different publications or for different devices without having to redesign. As your scrollable area is a layout which is most likely in skyscraper format (narrow as a traditional column and very tall), you can use that in any publication, orientation or device, even if they have different aspect ratios (iPads currently have a 3:4 ratio, many Android devices have a 16:9 or 16:10 ratio). You don’t need to redesign the article (which resides in the scrollable area) — you just redesign the outer page and reference the same scrollable area. This will save you a lot of time!
Bottom-line: if you start now, you can experiment with new user experiences, be among the first with new ways, be discovered and be spoken about. Now is the time. It’s easy, it’s possible, it’s affordable, and it’s fun.
So what is holding you up? You can really dare to be first.
Both an engineer and a layout artist, Matthias bridges the gap between technology and people.
Before joining Quark, Matthias pioneered print, Web, and multimedia products for multiple German publishing companies. Since 1997 he has played a central role in shaping Quark’s desktop and enterprise software.
Starting 2003 Matthias has focused on Quark’s interactive and digital publishing solutions. He is an active participant in design and publishing communities and represents Quark in the Ghent PDF Workgroup.
Since February 2014 Matthias heads Quark’s Desktop Publishing business unit and is therefore responsible for QuarkXPress.