It’s the one question that needs to be answered from the start and will greatly effect both the quality of the publication and its individuality.
Digizines are not a website, they are a magazine and on that, there cannot be any argument. If you really wanted to be a technical ass kisser you could argue that it’s online and ergo a site, but after a couple of whiskeys I’d still argue with that.
There are some fundamental differences between websites and online magazines, pages are displayed differently, resolutions are different despite both being on screen, type has to be much bigger, the design is different, the editorial voice is different and most importantly you’re trying something new and you cant please everyone (a point often forgotten)
Ceros based magazines such as iGizmo are made by combining a PDF and a SWF file, crunching them together and displaying them on a very clever little Flash based system for online viewing.
Since what you are marketing is an online magazine it would be bloody stupid if the product didn’t resemble a magazine, so page structure is different from a web page. Digizines are normally displayed on facing A4 pages, just like a standard magazine. Page size can be changed with no impact on the system that displays them, for instance if you decided to make the page size square, technically you would be maximising the space of a modern widescreen monitor. However you also need to take into consideration that roughly 30% of users still have 1024 x 768 monitor resolution (based on iGizmo users) and thus the magazine will seem even smaller. You also need to decide that a square magazine, at a double page spread is a rather unusual rectangle shape without the once taken for granted page gutter to break it up. Does maximising the space make the most sense or does it make the gap between website and digizine that little smaller?
Navigation is different in digizines as familiar top mounted menu bars are gone, left sided nav columns are not there and more recognisable print features such as strap lines and page numbers make an appearance.
The PDF layer of the digizine would be the start, the lead of the rest of the mag. It’s here things need to take shape in the form of a standard mag, taking into consideration all the standard rules of magazine layout like reading from the top left, not jumping around like a maniac or splitting everything up into columns like a website. you also need to carefully consider text size since it’s not displayed through code like a site but through images either on the PDF or SWF layer and at twice the resolution.
Then the SWF file or Flash layer sits on top and is the source of all your interactive layers, animations and videos. This is where your web knowledge comes in, firstly hire a dude than can programme vast amounts of work in a short time – vital since publishing will always be a hectic work environment. Then begin applying web principles to the design…
Although this isn’t a website and we don’t want it to look like one, readers will be most familiar with certain key features of internet browsing, pointing and arrow cursors, rollovers, clicking and play buttons being some of the main ones. Utilise these devices, keep them familiar to the reader and use as a grounding point for when the temptation of over imagination takes hold and before you know it your page is too complicated for anyone to enjoy.
Broadband width also plays a part since its never upto the speeds people would have you believe. It simply isn’t capable (at least not in England) to have digizines full of A4 DPS 150dpi images, it takes too much time to load on a lot of systems.
Why 150dpi and not 72? Although screens display at 72dpi Ceros based mags and a lot of other digizines are exported at 150dpi because of their zoom feature.
The zoom is an important if not particularly user friendly part of the reading experience. The idea on iGizmo is you click once to zoom in and again to zoom out. Making any text that isn’t readable before zooming clear as day. Because of this feature and the nature of large glossy looking images, people will want to zoom in and see the detail on the pictures, especially in specialist titles such as iGizmo or iMotor (launched July 17th) making it more difficult to increase image compression.
Then we have the whole physical element of digizines and websites, i.e. bugger all. Yeah you can click a mouse or type a word or maybe even use arrow keys if you’re lucky, but generally it is minimal. Digizines would almost be the same if it wasn’t for their use of “page turning technology” as everyone always calls it. Myself now included, dam. Although not a physical element it reminds the reader of one, it provides a certain amount of satisfaction, and it emphasises that they are not on what some people would have you believe is a website.
Hopefully in the future (and where thinking about it) we can bridge the gap a little more between online magazines and physicality, devices such as touch screens and Nintendo Wii’s just open up a whole new world of ideas in terms of being really user friendly…