Tablet and smartphone iPhone
Credit: Image by Mark Hakansson
Dennis Publishing's Clementine Vioux detailed some key pieces of advice when publishing magazine content to mobile devices at the SIIA Digital Content and Media Summit in London today.

Vioux is mobile product manager at Dennis, which publishes consumer magazines including The Week, which has won an award for its iPad app.

Vioux offered a list of dos and don'ts

Don't
  • Don't make print replicas

Screen sizes are different to page sizes, both in shape and dimension, so replicating the print version for mobile simply will not work, Vioux told Journalism.co.uk.

"When journalists create a print version they work on every page as a single layout," she said. "You can't do that on with responsive design as it has to fit every screen size."
  • Don't develop for just one device
With so many different devices on the market, all with varying screen sizes and dimensions, having one device in mind could mean a lot more work in the long run, she said.

"If you have your layout in mind you have to adapt it for the device," she said. "If you think about just the iPad or Nexus you'll have the layout in mind and not the content."

Keeping an open mind as to how the content can adapt to different devices with responsive design is vital.
  • Don't develop the app without considering the production process of the editorial team
"This is a really practical thing," she said, "technically it's not too complicated but if you don't involve the editorial team then they may problems or questions."

Speaking from personal experience, Vioux said that involving the editorial team at an early stage can save a lot of re-development down the line, and can give new insights into how best to go about the initial design.

"It really has to fit what they want otherwise you may have to do it again," she said. "For them a small thing might matter but for you it might not matter."

Do
  • Focus on the core of your product
To understand what will work best in a digital edition, Vioux recommends stripping the publication back to its core.

For one magazine the team at Dennis made a "flat" inventory of the content in table format, with out any kind of visual presentation. This helped to "materialise the content from print and focus on the essence of the product," she said.

Once the editorial team understood what was at the core of the publication's content, the next step is to find out what the reader looks for.

"One of the best examples is the Cyclist mag," she said. "We did lots of user testing. People came and said we love the magazine because of the stories and the pictures and the editor said the same."
  • Simplify
"You realise in the print magazine that you have content to fill the page," Vioux said. "That's fine in a print mag but you don't need that in digital."

Boxes and pull quotes are often used to fill blank space in print editions but when it comes to digital it can make the page look cluttered and messy, especially if using responsive design.
  • Adapt your content and take advantage of the features the different platforms offer
Simplifying the content and stripping it back to the core does not mean that is how it reaches the reader. Mobile devices offer many options and features to make the content more compelling and engaging.

"It can be simple but you can use some of the amazing things from the iPad," Vioux said. "Galleries, videos, those kind of things. It can be simple but don't avoid the different options these devices can give you."
  • Add clear rules for the editorial team
Adapting to a different medium and mode of publication is a learning process for everyone, said Vioux, but it can help to give some clear rules in the beginning to smooth the change.

"When you work with the editorial team for the first time you can really help them by giving them some clear rules," she said.

Things like not putting text on the pictures, or ensuring they tag content properly, will help editorial teams to adjust while streamlining the process for the design and development team.
 
"It's better to tell them 10 basic rules at first and then, as they get used to the product, they can be more flexible," she said.
  • Iterate
"You can't get it perfect the first time," Vioux said, "you need to do multiple versions to make it good."

Each iteration of a mobile edition will give feedback from all sides – editorial, design, audience – on what is working for them and what isn't so it is important to let that feedback guide where the edition can go next.

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