Effective Experience Trumps Beautiful Design

At Mashable, Lauren Indvik wrote a really perceptive review of a wholly predictable problem: “Why do magazines look so terrible on the new iPad?

Most reporters would have cited “improved screen resolution” and directed publishers to up their game.  Indvik digs deeper to talk about file size and an under-reported challenge. Quoting Zeke Koch, a senior director of product management with Adobe, Indvik notes:

Since magazines began publishing on tablets, “virtually all” publishers have chosen to export their digital editions as PNG (.png) files, Koch said. “The primary reason they did that is because the fidelity is perfect. What you see on the desktop when you’re designing is exactly what you see on the iPad when you’re finished. Images are the fastest thing to load, and if you’re trying to create a quick, effortless browsing experience, images are the way to do that,” he explained.

Translation: using Adobe and its page-design metaphor lets you output file formats that make sure things on tablets look just as the designer intended them to. As for that pesky HTML:

(Koch) said the big disadvantage with HTML is that it’s “not very good at laying out things predictably and perfectly.” Rather, it’s optimal for helping people create content that will adapt to any size screen.

Right. The inability to lay things out predictably and perfectly on a tablet has been such an impediment to success, unless you’re Flipboard or Zite.

The problem with the new iPad is a function of tools (Adobe is built to replicate a page metaphor) and perspective (confusing format with brand). Tablets are about interaction, not planned layouts.

Replicating beautiful design is not the tablet challenge; creating an effective user experience is. 

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.