At today's Digital Magazine Awards in London, Rob Boynes, consultant art director at Dennis Publishing, gave a talk titled '5 totally awesome innovations in digital magazine design (LOL)'.
He shared his thoughts on how digital publishers should be looking to make the most of their product.
1. 'Share or die'
"You have to allow users to share anything they want and share skills and ideas as an industry," he said.
Publishers can't be limited to the software and the ideas that they have. In order for everyone to grow, makers of digital magazines need to learn to be "transparent as collaborators in an industry," he said.
2. 'Value must be greater than pain'
Too often the user ends up finding content difficult to access, which is completely counter-productive to what a publisher is looking to do in the first place, Boynes said.
"Reduce the steps to access content," he said, "and make things easier to read, share and page".
Designers and publishers should also go beyond skeuomorphic pages – those that look like the real, physical thing – to make a product both of and for the digital age, he added
3. 'Design for the user not the device'
"Design a personal experience that keeps people coming back," Boynes said. The problem publishers may have with retention could be solved by "moving away from products into experiences".
He also shared a story in which his commercial director had explained that he would not stop distributing to a particular shop if he didn't like the people who shopped there.
The same idea could be transferred to digital, he said. There are plenty of users on some so-far untapped platforms, and publishers should look to move into the areas where potential readers are, not just look at established platforms or devices for magazines.
Boynes's final thought on this point was that "we are moving towards a 'non-touch' future". Kinect, Microsoft's motion sensor control system for Xbox, sold 24 million units last year, he said, "so this is an area we need to start moving into".
4. 'As a designer, have your ego destroyed by having someone use your app and record their experience'
"Learn about people," Boynes said. There's no use in organising a £250,000 launch for a product if it hasn't been tested with the people it is aimed for. Instead, designers and publishers should start with small ideas and see what works.
"If you don't work with users then you're just guessing," he said.
5. 'Don't make me look for my stuff'
Searching can be hard work and requires users to know what they are looking for, said Boynes. So make it as easy as possible for your content to turn up in search results.
Personalisation is the key for publishers here, Boynes told Journalism.co.uk. Most readers will not be interested in 100 per cent of a magazine's content and the app should be able to give a reader what they want better than print can.
"That way it allows me to browse content rather than search for it," he said. "The app then becomes a bespoke magazine to me, it becomes content that I want rather than wholly what the editor wants to serve to me."
In this respect, Boynes said publishers should be looking to Amazon, Facebook and other sites who are leading the way in terms of consumer-facing personalisation, as they are direct competitors for a readers time.
"We're in competition with Netflix, Buzzfeed, Tesco, Argos," he said. "We need to be in this area as well."
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