Moving from print to digital - 5 tips to get started

Luk Dhondt 31-07-2012 How-To

If you have been used to publishing for print and are just looking into with digital publishing, here are a couple of basic tips to get started.
  1. Type & font There is quite a big difference between reading text in a digital magazine on a tablet and reading it on the paper of a printed magazine. So when you move from print to digital, it is very important to choose a font that is easy to read on a screen. For a standard-size printed publication you normally set body copy at 10 to 12 points. On an iPad screen, even 12 points will be too small to read for most people. The minimum type size for body copy shouldn’t normally be less than 16, and preferably even 18 points.
  2. Serif vs. Sans-serif Serif fonts have worked well for hundreds of years. They tend to look more old-fashioned and ‘establishment’. The serifs – the flowing marks at the points of letters – work by leading the eye on to the next letter, making for a smoother and easier read. However, this only works at best at a high resolutions (print). At a low resolution, the extra complexity decreases clarity, and the reduced whitespace between letters makes recognition slower. Serifs become more acceptable at higher sizes. Sans-serifs are literally fonts that don’t have serifs. They look more modern and open. On pixel-based displays, sans-serif fonts are more readable than serifs, because they are simpler, and this translates well to the lower resolution. Many sans fonts have been developed specifically for electronic media. The most readable sans-serif fonts are broad, providing ample space between letters, which facilitates recognition. In the opinion of most designers, Verdana is the most effective font for body text. You’ll find a couple of good suggestions for reading fonts (both serif and sans-serif) in this article by Marco Arment, of Instapaper fame.
  3. Interactive Links and buttons A user interacts with the iPad by touch, so you should make sure that your buttons big enough. According to Apple Guidelines, you should maintain a hit target area of at least 44 x 44 pixels. Try to use a consistent layout/shape for your buttons and links. It will allow the user to more easily recognize a certain type of button or link in the publication. Also make sure to add enough white space between buttons or links. Tip: Use page links (hyperlinks) to create a table of contents. The TOC gives readers a high-level view of the content in the document, and allows for easier navigation.
  4. Contrast in text It’s very important to have sufficient contrast between text and its background. Use a white background with black body text where possible. If not, use black text on the lightest background color you can manage. An alternative is white or brightly-colored text on a black or very dark background color, but this is probably going to be more tiring for most readers.
  5. How to structure your publication Portrait - Landscape One of the first important decisions you should take is whether your publication will support both horizontal and vertical orientation, or only one orientation. You might decide to go for a single orientation to save time (and money) in the design process. On the other hand, many iPad users have come to expect support for both orientations. When creating a new publication in Twixl Publisher, you can select whether you want to create both or only a single orientation.Multi-page articles In a digital publication you can navigate (swipe) through a publication horizontally and vertically. Any article can consist of one or more “pages”, and you’ll be able to navigate from one to the other on the iPad via vertical swiping. Horizontal swiping from within any page of an article will always navigate to the first page of the next article. Keep in mind that instead of using a page-based mechanism, you can also create a single longer document that a user can scroll through (similar to how it works in a web browser) Interactive Objects You should ensure that users of your publication should not feel like they are in a labyrinth. Don’t forget to use visual indicators for using interactive objects. Let the user know if there is an interactive object in the page. Also try to make sure that it’s clear for a user whether the article contains multiple pages (and the user can swipe vertically), or whether the user should just swipe horizontally to the next article.

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