Six Key Concepts for Designing a Modern Digital Reading Experience

Marker Seven specializes in designing great user experiences. Recently, our resident User Experience expert (Meagan Timney), gave an impressive talk (“Rethinking Design for Digital Editions”) at INKE CFP: Beyond Accessibility: Textual Studies in the 21st Century (INKE is a multi-national, multi-disciplinary research initiative, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and partnering organizations, to study, develop, and implement digital environments for reading and research) at the University of Victoria, where she talked about how important design is in the future of digital reading experiences.

She discussed how the introduction of the Infinite Canvas, ubiquitous computing, gamification, and augmented reading (and even reality) paradigms are changing a user's digital reading experience. Here are some helpful concepts and considerations that she says are essential to the design of any modern digital user experience.

6 key concepts for designing a modern user experience

  1. Content. Content is king! Less is more. Quality over quantity is especially important in an age where a user is bombarded by so much information all at once. Only the most useful information is meaningful and memorable. Make content memorable.
  2. Context. It's important to understand the context that users will be consuming the information to provide meaningful context. Context includes (but is not limited to): history, theory, related information, network of information, images, geographic locations.
  3. Affordances (or qualities). Pick a small number of key qualities and use them to drive design. What do you want your users to do with the product or service you are designing?
  4. Modularity. Adopt a phased, iterative approach. "Fail early to succeed Sooner" (Tim Brown). Choose your design and development methodology early (Agile, waterfall, etc.). Embrace serendipity.
  5. Aesthetics. "Attractive things work better" (Don Norman). Make it pretty as well as usable and useful.
  6. Emotion. Find an emotional connect with your users. What is driving them to use your product or service? What emotion do you want to invoke in your users?

4 design points to always consider

  1. Be platform neutral.
  2. Design for content and context.
  3. Choose the right technologies to allow the best affordances. (based on the quality of an object, or an environment, that allows an individual to perform an action).
  4. Design for interaction.
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