Designing for digital publications takes a thoughtful approach to content. As any reader of digital publications knows, one of the format’s great advantages is the opportunity for a richer reading experience through interaction, animation, and multimedia. With the award-winning digital titles we’ve designed here at Network, our philosophy is to take advantage of those possibilities—while being careful not to add bells and whistles just for the sake of adding them. Interactive and multimedia elements work best when they have a clear role to play.
Do they deepen the reader’s understanding of the article? An interactive information graphic, for instance, can sometimes convey insights more easily than a static graphic could.
Do they drive engagement with the association’s other content? For example, we often include association-produced videos or podcasts, or links to relevant association products and resources for further reading. These not only make for a richer experience, but also reinforce connections with the association.
Do they make content easier to digest? Something as simple as a module that slides or steps through bullet points or interview questions can help draw a reader in.
We also often use the idea of “bonus” content — items that are not strictly necessary for understanding the article, but allow an interested reader to go deeper. Pop-up sidebars that present another perspective on the topic, or photo sliders that contain more imagery than could ever fit into a print edition, are great examples of this.
Animation, too, can be used to introduce or reinforce the idea of an article. Particularly in a feature story, a simple, short animation that doesn’t take up too much of the reader’s time can be a great “welcome.” The key is that these aren’t included just because we can—rather, they’re only added if they can help drive home the concepts being presented.
Even with these extra layers of possibility, designing for digital publications isn’t reinventing the wheel. Yes, there are special considerations for the screen: type choices, user interface concerns, and tweaks for different screen sizes must all be considered. And creating single pages rather than spreads requires a subtle shift in thinking, too. But most of the design principles that are important on a device are the same ones we’ve long been used to from print magazines: clear navigation, consistency, well-defined hierarchy on the page. Design’s job is still to help the publication communicate its message as best it can, no matter the medium.