Now is the golden moment when digital media can really come into its own. To create a new standard in quality digital publishing, we need to recognize it as an entirely new medium and rethink the relationship between content, editorial design and user experience. Sometimes that means borrowing from and improving on trusted old standards. At other times it means pushing into new frontiers. Here are ways that we can approach digital publishing and improve the entire online media experience.
1. Web typography no longer sucks. The rapid adoption of new
standards and technologies, as well as the launch of services such as Typekit (or even Google’s free alternative Web Fonts), has essentially fixed the Web’s typography problem and is ushering in a renaissance of editorial design.
2.There is no mobile Web. The separation of desktop and mobile devices is quickly becoming moot. We use our phones to browse the Web from the couch and we work from our laptops while sitting in the park. There’s only one Web. Your publication needs to exist everywhere it does.
3. App or website? Easy decision. We have a simple rule: If it can be done on the Web, build it for the Web; if it can’t, build an app.
4. Consider social everywhere. This doesn't mean putting even more social sharing buttons everywhere they'll fit. Instead, consider social interactions based on context. An image could use a pop-up Pinterest button, while selecting a paragraph could prompt the user to share it on Facebook or Twitter. Posts could evolve over time with reader contributions that go beyond comments.
5. Design matters (now more than ever). We’ve become lazy. The bar was set low, and few have ever tried to raise it. Worst of all, success has rarely been linked to great design. Yet readers are clamoring for beautiful editorial experiences. We’re starting to see editorial design crawl its way into digital publishing; let’s celebrate it.
6. Start planning for next year’s resolutions. The new iPad and iPhone 4 are only the first wave of devices that will redefine our expectations of what a screen should look like, and what it can show. New resolutions that match or even surpass print mean a vastly improved reading experience if your media can keep up.
7. Be data-driven, and then ignore the data (sometimes). Select a few key metrics that will define whether or not an experience is a success, and then measure, measure, measure. Build iteration as part of your spec. You won’t get everything right the first time around, but trust your instincts. Behavior changes sometimes take time. A learning curve is okay.