In writing this article, I tried out the top digital magazine platforms on an iPad and an Android mobile phone. These included Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Readly, Texture, Magzter, and a few others. What follows are some observances and recommendations for publishers that can make the digital experience better for their readers.
Most digital editions require some sort of subscription fee in order to access the full magazine on a tablet. With print magazines we are accustomed to paying for content with ads. In the digital world it is decidedly the opposite. Many feel that if we have to endure ads it should be because we are getting content for free. More often than not, these ads disrupt the user experience. Digital magazines should consider how they format editions so the ads don’t disrupt the flow.
To view a magazine I have a choice of a) downloading it each time, or b) having them automatically download. If I choose option a), I have to wait several minutes for the magazine to display. If I choose option b), I risk filling up my device’s disk space – which can happen really quickly with most mobile devices. I could only really test one platform at a time because the editions would eat up all the available space on my devices. I wasn’t downloading a ton of magazines either, only a few.With several of the platforms I tried there was repeated crashing. This type of issue could be resolved with more efficient loading methods that are not so data-heavy.
Maybe I’m just a spoiled millennial, but when I see a table of contents on a digital device I expect to be able to select an article and jump to it. That sort of luxury ended up being the exception to the rule. Some might put this particular complaint as the biggest problem with digital editions. Many digital editions end up being PDF reproductions of print magazines. For smaller publishers this is understandable if they don’t have the resources to invest in specialized editions. However, even a few formatting techniques would take better advantage of the capabilities of the medium. Certainly every larger publisher should consider making digital editions more interactive.
If it is possible to share content from any of these platforms, it was not evident to me. In many ways this is just a particular problem with the previous issue I mentioned. Publishers could probably find a lot more traction by allowing their readers to share portions of the digital editions. Most people are more interested in a single article. A lot of good can be done for a brand if friends consistently share their content.
By far the biggest improvement that can be made with these digital editions is improving legibility of the text. More often than not, I had to zoom in just to be able to read the text. The written word is the primary mode of communication these publishers should be focusing on. One of the rules in design is to focus on mobile first. There are a number of low-cost design changes that could make a digital edition a more enjoyable reading experience. I would encourage publishers to focus on making the text legible without having to zoom in. The easier it is to read, share, and interact, the more likely audiences are going to spread the word.