At it’s core it is words and pictures on paper.
The role of a print magazine or newspaper is to inform, educate, and potentially entertain the reader. This purpose is accomplished via carefully curated content in the form of articles and images artfully displayed on a page. Purposeful design draws the eye. Articulate thought maintains the connection. Designers speak volumes regarding font selection and size. Why? Legibility.
As a rule there isn’t a periodical on the planet that uses a size four ‘script’ type font for a long-form article. Sure, it might reduce paper costs but each issue would need to ship with a magnifying glass attachment. That would be a major deterrent to readership and audience engagement. That is common sense. Although digital replicas offer the benefit of mirroring the page design elements they often forego the most important consideration with regards to their audience – legibility.
Print editions that are laid-out on standard letter or tabloid size pages are intended to be viewed at those dimensions. In order to view a digitally replicated version, as PDF or digital edition, on smaller devices such as tablets or smartphones, scaling occurs. Scaling naturally affects the legibility of text as it is reduced in accordance with the rest of the page.
"With most digital replica interfaces the only available option to circumvent illegible text is page zooming and panning"
With most digital replica interfaces the only available option to circumvent illegible text is page zooming and panning. It is the digital equivalent of reading a print edition with a magnifying glass in hand. Regardless of how elegantly a written piece illustrates a point it cannot be expected that a reader would leaf through an entire magazine with a magnifying glass or a digital zoom-and-pan tool.
If we can agree that it makes very little sense to produce a print edition that is illegible why does that rule not apply to a digital edition? A product that is created for the purpose of being read should be able to be read whether it is in a physical or digital format. As a partner to publishers, in response with the rise of smaller mobile displays, we were aware of this concern and remedied it with the introduction of enhanced text articles in our digital editions. Enhanced articles offer an alternative view for article content with added tools such as font enlargement and now offer article narration.
"A product that is created for the purpose of being read should be able to be read whether it is in a physical or digital format."
Let’s not forget why magazines and newspapers are produced in the first place – to be read. And if the goal isn’t to ensure that our audience can read what is being produced then I wonder what purpose there is at all.