Fast Company

Could an Apple Magazine Template in iOS Change the Industry?

ipad-mags

The iPad is a natural device for magazine content--it may be the future of the genre, in many ways. But successes have been few and far between so far, so Apple may be trying to help digital magazines by building in a template to the code. Is this a good thing?

Apple's rumored to be building code hooks and extensive developer guidelines into a future version of Xcode (the software suite that lets coders create apps for the iPhone and iPad) to aid the construction of iPad-friendly digital magazines. It's a move designed to smooth out and unify the in-app experiences that end users get when they activate apps with this kind of content, a principle we know Apple adores, and also to increase the number of magazines available (by making it easier to craft a digital mag in the first place).

Apple's developer guidelines are all about creating consistency between the way users interact with apps--it's a principle the firm applies to its desktop systems (by limiting the code hooks to the UI) as well as its mobile apps, but in terms of the iPad and iPhone Apple's been extremely strict in enforcing UI design decisions on its coder community. The idea here is to create a slick user experience, with apps behaving in predictable, reliable, and smooth ways when you interact with them--Apple's been known to reject apps from the App store simply because they violate UI guidelines. 

Meanwhile the number of newspapers, magazines and new-media news mag apps on the iPad has been slowly growing, each with its own hand-crafted user interface with unique tweaks, responses to gestures and foibles (the New York Times app was bedeviled by an incredibly slow lag at first, Wired's e-magazine behaves totally differently to, for example, The Daily...and so on). Part of the difficulty in building these apps is creating a UI and user experience from scratch--possibly mapping in thinking from the Adobe software that the hardcopy is often created with. Moving from one of these apps to another requires users to remember how each one responds to a page-turn gesture, or a tap.

And that's what Apple would be targeting if the rumored code tweaks are true. A consistent UI/UE will definitely boost how magazines look and feel, it could even boost use of in-app subscriptions, and it will definitely increase the number of e-mags available as beginner app writers/magazine publishers embrace the template as a simpler way to craft an app. 

But is this a good thing? Part of the joy of paper magazines is the differences between them--the way they layout pages, the way articles are structured. Will an Apple-controlled magazine template result in too much consistency, less creativity? And will the flood of self-published magazines, comics and so on result in too much clamor? Let the debate begin.

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9 Comments

  • capegreg

    I agree. I think that a standard magazine structure for the iPad is good. When you think about it, most magazines apply an industry kind of format as well: turning pages right to left, masthead location, and using glossy paper. I wouldn't want to subscribe to a magazine that was in a format that made reading it awkward.

  • Phil Williams

    @Matt Espinoza: "The ideas of creatives in agencies are being completely ignored"... Yes, let's forget about the users! It doesn't matter if they don't know how to use it, as long as it wins awards! That comment reminds me of some guys I saw in a line outside a trendy bar last week... "We're with Colenso". Having worked in agency digital departments for over a decade, nothing annoys me more than advertising creatives going off half-pie on the big idea and creating something completely unusable. Let Apple roll out a mag standard that most can use. That will bring the base level up, while truly outstanding exceptions like Wired will still get approval.

  • Matt Espinoza

    Total control play, and also to protect the substandard hardware and ram limitations these devices are plauged by. The UI components offered up by the magazines are a joke. There is no standard and there shouldn't be. By limiting it to a template, you level the playing field, and everyone is the same.

    I'm tired of telling people we can't do things, and then handing them a template sheet and saying "pick one". The ideas of creatives in agencies are being completely ignored, and the capabilities of developers operating on that platform shouldn't be limited to unimaginative and standardized templates issued by Apple.

  • trendwatcher

    Content is king, form is functional. Try bringing the magazine-form to the iPad. In the Netherlands there is a Zinio kind of company company called Tablisto (www.tablisto.com) who is exploring a reading standard.

  • Wayne J. Cosshall

    It depends on whether it aids consistency or become a straightjacket to innovation. There is a fine line here, especially given that we are very much at the beginning of understanding the possibilities on e-publishing of magazines.

  • Jairo

    As a former publisher myself, I support the idea. In principle.
    It would lower production costs. In terms of creativity, call it content.
    Jairo A.

  • Larry Phipps

    The beauty of print magazines lies in their creative content, not in the user experience. From Fast Company to Wired to Good Housekeeping, the user experience is consistent - turn the page, see new content. it's elegant in its consistent simplicity. And leaves plenty of room for spontaneously creative content.

    I would expect the Apple initiative to reflect the company's commitment to just that kind of elegant simplicity without choking out creativity.

    It's important that we not confuse the format with the content.

  • Larry Phipps

    The beauty of print magazines lies in their creative content, not in the user experience. From Fast Company to Wired to Good Housekeeping, the user experience is consistent - turn the page, see new content. it's elegant in its consistent simplicity. And leaves plenty of room for spontaneously creative content.

    I would expect the Apple initiative to reflect the company's commitment to just that kind of elegant simplicity without choking out creativity.

    It's important that we not confuse the format with the content.

  • Rufus Dogg

    "Part of the joy of paper magazines is the differences between them--the way they layout pages, the way articles are structured."

    But they all read left to right, top to bottom. And the paper pages all turn the same way.