The Week magazine on desktop and ipad

As part of my role with the Content Marketing Association I organise and host the monthly Digital Breakfasts. It’s one of the highlights of my month, as I get to talk to some of the most experienced and inspirational minds in the UK’s creative industries.

This month we led on the theme of ‘User Centred Design and Content’, with presentations from:

* Jonny Kaldor, Co-Founder at Kaldor Product Development Group
* Andy Budd, Founder and Managing Director, Clearleft
* Alex Watson, Director of Product, Tablet and Apps, Dennis Publishing

What is a magazine?

Alex Watson, Dennis Publishing Alex Watson, speaking at the CMA Digital Breakfast June 2013.

 

Having come from a background in magazine journalism,  I’ve seen the impact that digital has has had on this industry first-hand. As Alex Watson said in his presentation, the publishing industry been forced to ask itself: ‘What is a magazine?’ and ‘What does our product do for its users?’

That’s not an easy question to answer, and will vary from title to title. In fact, as Alex showed, a magazine is many things across its lifespan – it’s an advert, some relevant content, a reference tool, a souvenir, and more.

User centred design and content

All three speakers argued that the key to providing value in digital media is to put the end user at the heart of the design process.

Andy Budd highlighted another important tenet – failure is a core part of the product development process and a pre-requisite for success (adapted from the ‘lean start-up’ movement).

In reviewing the process of launching Dennis Publishing’s The Week magazine on iPad, Andy referenced the classic architect’s mistake of designing for a fictitious user behaviour that only existed in the designers’ heads.

This is how print magazines are often developed, and publishers invariably adopt the same approach when it comes to digital launches.

For digital designers and creatives, it’s important to evaluate the product design in context. That means testing your product early enough in the process, and often enough to identify any problems.

Andy was bold enough to share some of the details of the failure of the first prototype for the Week. What’s important is that those insights informed the finished design, which went on to become a great success for the app with readers and subscribers.

Take a look at Andy’s full presentation, and check out this book for more on UX for Lean Startups.

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Visual Web Image via furthr.co.uk

The shift towards a more ‘visual web’ can no longer be dismissed as a mere trend. Look around and the signs are clear – publishers, brands and organisations need to create compelling visual content to acquire and retain users.

Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr is the latest sign that this shift needs to be taken seriously. Tumblr is a visually-orientated blogging platform that’s found great popularity with photographers, illustrators, fashion brands and other visually-rich content producers. But increasingly this move toward more visual content must be embraced by anyone seeking to reach and engage an audience online.

The big players on the web have made substantial changes to their web platforms around three core principles:

  1. Mobile
  2. Social
  3. Visual

In fact, these three trends go hand-in-hand, as Mashable’s rationale for its new design explains. We’re moving inexorably towards a post-PC, mobile-centric web, where visual media is more easily consumed and shared. Look at the recent developments of these digital giants:

So the time is now right to consider your visual content strategy, whether it’s building your community with photos or creating compelling infographics to drive leads.

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Time for a pause?

February 1, 2012

One of the highlights of 2011 for me was the APA Content Summit 2011, which took place in London last November. As always it was a fascinating event (disclosure – I work as a consultant with the APA) that presented attendees with many interesting ideas to digest about the future of content and publishing, but […]

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Apple’s Siri and what it means for the user experience

October 19, 2011

Siri, the iPhone’s killer app Like millions of others, I queued for the iPhone 4S last week (I don’t usually queue for new products on the day of release, but this time I was keen as my 2-year-old iPhone 3GS has been regularly crashing on me). There are many improvements (especially if you’re upgrading from […]

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Turntable.fm creates a new user experience for music

June 22, 2011

Like many others around the web I’m captivated by Turntable.fm, the new online music sharing service. I’ve just been exploring for the past 24 hours, but here are some random observations on the user experience: It blends some of the key digital trends of today, social+gamification+music, and it’s a powerful combination. The Facebook integration is […]

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Hult’s Masters of Digital Marketing: Digital Publishing Module

May 10, 2011

I’m just getting started with my students at Hult International Business School, where I’m the course tutor on the elective module on Digital Publishing. We have our first class tomorrow. I’m already excited by the amount of energy, enthusiasm and insight generated by the students, as evinced by their work setting up blogs and writing […]

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Why Instapaper 3.0 and Pinboard are my new favourite things

March 14, 2011

Since I last outlined my information workflow back in January 2010 things hadn’t changed much during the past 12 months. But with the launch of Instapaper 3.0 I’ve finally been moved to ditch Read it Later and adopt Instapaper as my main tool for saving articles to read at a more convenient time. Why? These […]

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One story per day gets 80% of audience engagement

March 11, 2011

Traditional digital publishing wisdom has it that content frequency and volume are the keys to success online. A recently leaked content strategy document from AOL is based on this strategy, which is principally aimed at capitalising on search engine traffic by flooding Google’s index with keyword-rich content. But a study by Yuri Lifshit for Yahoo […]

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Is 2011 the year of the new search paradigm?

March 7, 2011

We’ve seen this coming for some time. The traditional search algorithms, based on keywords and hyperlinks, are finally feeling the strain. Users are complaining of more ‘junk’ content in their search results, and more and more of us are getting the feeling that, whisper it, search sucks. Why? Because the search system pioneered by Google to sort […]

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What’s your personal mission statement?

February 21, 2011

I met up with a friend this week and we got chatting about what motivates us in our work. He’s a journalist, I’m a user experience designer, but that’s just what we do on a day-to-day basis – we decided to dig a bit deeper and try to discover what underpins this. We challenged each […]

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