July 26, 2013

Two Perspectives on Digital Publishing

Written by 

Digital publishing is an effective way for nonprofits and grant making organizations (such as community foundations and other philanthropies) to create inspiring and informative design and communication pieces.

We’ve had many inquiries recently about digital publishing with Adobe InDesign and the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition (DPS). DPS extends the publishing workflow for colleges and universities to recruit and retain students. Digital publishing is also an effective way for nonprofits and grant making organizations (such as community foundations and other philanthropies) to create inspiring and informative design and communication pieces.

A first person account of a DPS adventure

second-harvest-ar12-introI recently used Adobe InDesign and the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), Single Edition, to create a digital publication and my overall experience was positive – although there were a few minor glitches along the way. As a first-time user, I found certain aspects of the process to be quite confusing. However, once I became familiar with the DPS service, the process was relatively simple and easy to figure out. Knowing that you will be taking the same path, my experience may help you avoid any confusion by learning from my experience.

The first thing you should think about is how you want to distribute your digital publication:

  • Do you plan to use iTunes, Amazon (Kindle), Google Play, or publish exclusively for co-workers or friends?
  • If you plan to distribute through iTunes, Amazon, or Google, you will have to apply for their specific developer license.

We chose to release solely through the Apple iOS Developer Program; initially I found the experience to be confusing and difficult.

Once you decide which platform to develop for and distribute your digital publication through (and have created accounts with those services), you must sign up for an Adobe account in order to use the InDesign software and the DPS service. The Adobe Creative Cloud is subscription-based and requires a monthly commitment. I’m going to assume that you have done this, and move on (if not, visit www.creative.adobe.com/plans).

Download on the App Store Badge US-UK 135x40I created and edited my publication using Adobe InDesign. I would suggest familiarizing yourself with some digital publishing terminology first. For example, a “folio” is a collection of InDesign documents or “articles” bundled together. Once you understand some basic terms, it’s time to learn your way around the InDesign menus. DPS features are integrated into InDesign, so you can easily create buttons and other elements to add user engagement and interactivity to your publication. Look for these tools under the Window tab (e.g. Folio Builder, Folio Overlay, Interactive).

You should begin by making a new document with the intent being digital publishing. At this point, you are faced with important considerations:

  • On what type of device do you expect your publication to be viewed?
  • InDesign currently offers options for Apple iPad, Apple iPhone, Amazon Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble Nook, Android 10-inch, or a custom screen ratio.
  • Another choice you must make is how to display your publication: vertically, horizontally, or both.

Naturally, all of these choices affect the design of your publication and the amount of work needed to ready it for distribution.

Once your articles have been designed, you use the Folio Builder to bundle them together into a folio. Don’t worry – if you receive unexpected last-minute revisions, you can edit separate articles as needed, even after they have been bundled.

Viewing your folio before publishing is where the process gets murky. You are supposed to be able to preview your folio on your mobile device with the Adobe Content Viewer app, or on your desktop computer with the Adobe Desktop Viewer. Unfortunately, these viewers don’t always work properly – hopefully, Adobe will fix these bugs in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, it may take a few attempts – and maybe some troubleshooting time – to view your folio on your mobile device or desktop computer.

Once you’re satisfied with your folio, head to the Folio Producer (a drop-down item in the Folio Builder menu which connects you directly to Adobe’s website).

SHFB-AR2012-iPadTo prepare your folio for publishing there are a few things you must do first (e.g. create preview thumbnail images) before the Folio Producer will allow you to complete the publishing process. These built-in features are quite helpful for checking your folio and ensuring that it’s ready for publication.

Once you have taken all of the necessary preparation steps, the Folio Producer will prepare your publication for the distribution platform of your choice. I chose to distribute my publication via the iTunes store. One piece of advice from my experience: keep all necessary Apple iOS IDs at your fingertips during this stage of the process; making sure these are correct avoids what may be the only potential hang up at this point. (Other distribution platforms may present other challenges.) If everything is correct and complete, your publication will now be ready to upload to the iTunes store or your chosen platform.

Adobe InDesign and the Adobe Digital Publication Suite, Single Edition, are designed to make the digital publishing process easy. As with other Adobe products, you will need to feel your way through the first time – but if you are familiar with how Adobe products work, you will be fine. I would recommend InDesign and DPS to anyone looking for a simple way to produce and publish digital content for today’s mobile devices.

Using the DPS can be rewarding, although it's never as seamless or easy as Adobe makes it seem.  

The print version looks like this:

The Agency Perspective:

Here's our final real-world example of a digital publishing annual report using the DPS suite:

WDownload on the App Store Badge US-UK 135x40e started this project with the idea that we would be releasing it as a print piece and an iPad app. It is essentially a print to interactive piece, so there are two InDesign files associated with our final designs. 

If we were designing strictly for the iPad (such as an interactive view book) we would consider the UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) in a completely different way. For example, we designed the interactive view book as a companion to a print version for the Wayne College view book. The original view book was an 8.5x11” brochure. The final interactive view book is horizontal, and required progressive disclosure to hide and show the same amount of content that was shown on the print page spreads.

Remember, if you're thinking about DPS, the first thing you need to do is apply for the Apple iOS Developer Program.  Depending on how your institution is applying, it can be a quick or painfully long process.  For Aespire it took a couple of weeks, for another client it took eight weeks.  We released the SHFB annual app through our own account.  

Go apply now, even before you finish reading this. I'm not kidding. The Apple developer sites are confusing and non-cohesive, so you'll want to be familiar with setting up users and approved devices.

The development process went fairly smoothly, and the Adobe docs are very thorough.  The piece we designed was square, so we deliberately made the piece rotate smoothly between orientations.  

We carefully considered where interactive content (link to web site, intra-app navigation, swipe arrows) was placed, because on the iPad there is a roughly 3/8 inch area (about 40 pixels) at the top and bottom of the screen where the app navigation appears when you touch the screen. You'll also need to consider instructions for how to guide the user on an early screen. One key item to consider is that content that appears across spreads will only be visible as a single page.  That can interrupt and change your the flow.

We had a number of revisions while we developed the app, once we got to the provisioning stage and interacted with it on the iPad. We will most likely update and revise the app with video in the future to enhance the experience.  The piece is a foreshadowing of a capital campaign for a new facility; as we have information regarding lead gifts, building plans and other information, we'll update the app. This will be a crucial piece to maintain donor engagement.

Our advice: begin with the end in mind. Print to interactive publishing has strikingly different requirements for usability and content hierarchy. If you begin your conceptual process with the idea of similar but different, you’ll find that it frees you up to approach print and interactive digital publishing projects with the correct perspective. Each should be an individual project that shares common content and aesthetic, and is designed to meet the specific needs of the audience and distribution platform.

More in this category: The Alumni Letters, Part One »

Are you wasting money on marketing?

Give Aespire a call today to create clear messaging that helps your website, email, sales team, and marketing actually grow your business.