World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Tips for tablet solution seekers from UX pro Martin Belam

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Tips for tablet solution seekers from UX pro Martin Belam

Martin Belam and his Emblam digital consulting firm specialise in user experience, specifically with design and training services for organisations across numerous sectors. Formerly the UX (user experience) Lead at the Guardian, he has spent over a decade building successful digital products and user experiences across mobile and desktop for global brands like the Guardian, as well as for BBC, Sony and Vodafone.

He will speak at WAN-IFRA’s 5th Tablet & App Summit on 30 October during the World Publishing Expo in Frankfurt (29-31 October).

As part of WAN-IFRA Magazine’s preview of the events, we zapped Belam a couple of questions via email to gauge his thoughts on visitor tablet expectations at Expo and some of the trends emerging in the sector.

WAN-IFRA: In terms of technology, thinking of some publishers visiting the Expo to investigate tablet solutions, what do you think are some of the key questions they should be asking of suppliers, assuming said publisher has launched a tablet edition/product?

BELAM: For me one of the key questions, if you’ve gone down the “edition” route, is how long does it take to assemble editions? The incremental cost of doing a layout for print, and a re-versioned article for the web, and a landscape-shaped article for tablet and a portrait-shaped article for tablet soon mount up. Systems need to integrate well with workflows. At the Guardian the solution chosen was to take the output files that were going to produce the day’s newspaper edition, and use the templates and styles applied to the content in InCopy to make a “best guess” layout for the iPad edition. Editors would then go in and polish it by hand, and to ensure that the computer hadn’t accidentally put together some bad editorial juxtapositions. That was still quite time-consuming though, and the paper may have been better building something a little less bespoke.

WAN-IFRA: Do you see discernible trends emerging in terms of the direction tablet apps are going for newspaper publishers, more native apps, replicas, html 5 web?

BELAM: I think HTML5 is absolutely the way to go. There are increasingly few things that you can do with a native app that you can’t do in a modern browser, and you get a degree of cross-compatability for free. Where you do need to tap into native features, building a shell app that shows HTML5 views is helping to future-proof the way you are displaying your content. The trend I’d most like to see, though, is for publishers to focus on tablet editions or apps that address the needs of their customers, rather than just trying to address the needs of the publisher. “We need to get our content on tablets” is a very different attitude to “We need to provide a service to our customers on the device of their choice”, and leads to developing very different products. When I watch people use PDF-style facsimilie editions of newspapers on their tablets, and they are constantly swiping around and zooming in and out to read the rigidly laid-out text, I can’t help feeling that, sure, you sold them the content, but they can’t be enjoying the experience of battling with their screen in order to get to read it. They’ll go elsewhere.


Dean Roper's picture

Dean Roper


2012-08-30 16:37

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