The Importance of Mobile-First Digital Magazine Design


at User experience

Does your digital magazine work on mobile devices? By work, I mean that it has great readability and user experience. Did you know that mobile internet users overtook desktop internet users in 2016?

Digital publishing is one of the sectors where people want to consume content everywhere and anytime, on any device. Audiences are, in a way, very spoiled nowadays and they can get very picky. While this can be a great challenge, it can be an even greater opportunity.

In fact, almost every email, when sending a new issue blast, is opened on mobile devices first and if it gives a bad experience to the reader at first glance, you won’t get a second chance. But what does a “good mobile magazine experience” really mean? Here are five factors we think matter the most.

Quick Loading and Browsing Speeds

We put this first because people don’t like to wait; if your content doesn’t load instantly, someone else’s will. As soon as the reader hits the link to open your digital magazine, something needs to happen immediately. Your user judges your digital magazine at this critical moment and, if you fail, you’ve likely lost them.

They’ll start questioning everything: how does the site feel? Does something load instantly? (We are using the term “something” because it doesn’t have to be the magazine or website, but maybe a loader that indicates to the user that the magazine is loading or maybe the magazine cover converting from grayscale to color, or from blurry to sharp.)

If your magazine cover is lightweight and can be loaded right away, do it. If there’s even a slight possibility that it will load with delay, take that into account and give your users a pleasant experience while waiting.

When the magazine cover loads, start preloading the pages the user can visit within one click in the background right away. These pages are usually next, but the previous page and every page that can be reached with one click from the cover and the TOC can be too. You have them linked, right?

It’s way more important how a site feels to the user than the actual loading speed numbers. However, the numbers help you keep track when optimizing. Some great tools to keep track of these numbers are GTmetrix and Google page speed insights.

Intuitive controls and interface

The goal is to give the feeling to the user like he knows what to do and feels confident when interacting with your magazine interface. Never make the user feel stupid: he’ll start subconsciously resenting your magazine. At first, make sure all intuitive controls work well on your mobile magazine interface, such as scroll, swipe to the next section/page, zoom, slide out menu for TOC, linked magazine content with big enough area to click, etc. Then, and only then, after all these intuitive controls are working, start adding new unique things if necessary. It also helps if you create some easy to understand explainer interface.

Don’t forget — simple and intuitive is the best. The best case scenario is when everybody knows what to do without a tutorial.

User experience is also judged by the design of your magazine layout. It needs to clearly state where the headline, body copy, image caption, video that can be played, etc. are.

Good Readability

This may seem obvious, but so many digital magazines are lacking this important “feature.” Any type of digital magazine needs to be readable without zooming or other input from the reader’s side. We had a great blog post about digital magazine readability and how to achieve it.There was a great report made my Mequoda about consumer expectation form digital magazines and 71% of the report participants say that readability is the most important aspect of a digital publication to them.

Follows Google Guidelines

The web used to be the wild west some time ago, but things are changing: standards and regulations are riding into town to keep the peace, so to speak, making it easier for the user.

One of the biggest changes lately was the EU GDPR law on data collection. It helps users clearly understand what data is collected by the website that is visited and asks for permission. If you are serving EU customers, you should learn more about GDPR and implement at least some of its practices into your website. You can learn more about GDPR and check your website here.

One of the biggest regulators on the web is Google. They tend to come up with new standards and rules in their attempts to make the web a better place. How they do it?

They suggest new regulations and reward the websites who take action by giving them better search result rankings and, on the flip side, they punish those who ignore them by lowering the rankings or even removing those websites from the Google search result pages.

A few things they want from magazine websites are secure website connections using HTTPS and to avoid using popups that cover more than 40% of the website on mobile devices. Some other guidelines and suggestion from Google can be found using Google’s “Testmysite” tool.

Effective Ads

Ads are very important to every digital magazine, but so many advertisers fail to realize that ads need to be optimized for mobile devices. Well, they don’t have to be optimized necessarily, but if you want your campaign to be successful, you should do this. Here is a quick checklist of things to consider when optimizing your ads for mobile:

  • Do not use spreads; mobile screens are mostly used in a vertical orientation, so it’s best to present the ads as single-page or banner ads.
  • Mobile devices do not allow autoplay, so, if you are using video, you should add a play button of use GIFs instead.
  • Use larger fonts. Small print might become unreadable on smaller screens.
  • Your bigger clickable elements should be designed to make it obvious where to click (if the whole ad isn’t already clickable).
  • The ad’s click-thru landing page needs to be responsive and mobile friendly.
  • Do not use flash: nobody will see it. Flash gets blocked most of the time, even on desktop devices, not to mention mobile devices.
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I hope you’ll be able to optimize your magazine for mobile devices better after reading this. If you need help doing it, reach out to Flip180 Media — we’ve provided this service many times and we’re here to help!

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