Sally Shepard is head of app development at Dennis Publishing and was part of a panel discussion at Enterprise Apps World from June 17-18 looking at the importance of UX and UI. We caught up with her to find out how apps have affected the world of media.
How have apps changed the publishing industry and the way that you do business both internally and externally?
“Internally, many of the teams have reworked their approach to include digital. Ad sales teams need to think about how the ad content is going to fit in the app, how it will handle different screen sizes and what features they can put inside the ads. Editorial teams think about what kinds of features they can add - sound, video, interactive images, etc., to add depth to the content. Marketing must consider new communication mediums like push notifications and look at how engagement promotions like free trials in print can translate to digital. Externally, we are constantly researching new platforms and technologies to make sure we’re staying on the cutting edge.”
What are the peculiarities of the publishing industry for apps development – what do you need to consider?
“We need to consider the expectations of existing readers - making sure they remain happy and feel the content is valuable, providing the same experience they are used to. Equally important is attracting new users who may have different expectations based on familiarity with apps rather than magazines.
There is a perception among many consumers that it costs less money to produce digital content, but usually it costs the same or more; costs of print and logistics are matched by the need for server infrastructure so we have to provide extra value in the content so people feel it’s worth it.”
How important is UX and UI for enterprise apps in the publishing industry?
“UX and UI is just as important for enterprise apps. Enterprise consumers have the same expectations for quality and usability that app store consumers have. Enterprise users are using apps on their own phones, tablets and desktops (BYOD), so you have to make sure not to disappoint them.”
How do you use apps to improve transition between devices and platforms both for users who may be consuming media across numerous devices and journalists who are increasingly producing them across devices?
“We improve the transition between devices by providing consistent content across all platforms while upholding the design guidelines of each individual platform. At Dennis we work hard to make sure our apps and websites are consistent with our printed content. Our app designers work with the designers from the magazine to ensure the brand is upheld. We design our apps to fit in natively on the device it’s running on, for example - we don’t use the same share button on iOS and Android, we use whichever button is accepted as standard on that platform.”
What is your top tip for designing for each of the following platforms - smartphone, tablet and desktop?
“Regardless of platform, it's important to make the app look like it belongs there. Use platform-specific design guidelines to make sure the user can use the app without confusion and frustration. Embrace each platform on it’s own to produce something that feels truly native to that platform. Outside of how it looks, part of making it feel native is considering where these devices are used. Smartphones are with you wherever you go but get used in short bursts of activity, so deliver content in a size that fits the window of opportunity. Tablets are finding their place in people’s lives still, with some being the default device for content consumption in the home, others filling the longer gaps in the day like commuting, so you can increase the interactivity elements. The line between tablet and desktop is being blurred, tablets are getting more powerful which means the apps that run on them can in a lot of cases rival desktop apps.”
What is the biggest issue the enterprise apps arena is facing currently?
“One of the biggest issues is speed of innovation - the mobile market is constantly changing and growing, it’s challenging to not only keep up with it but also to stay ahead.”