I am happy to say that Letter to Jane Magazine is now available for all iOS devices!
Letter to Jane Magazine for iPhone is something that a lot of people have asked me to do, but I was always hesitant because I couldn’t envision a good experience on such a small screen. So much of the iPad magazine design is based around that it’s made for that exact 768×1024 screen, so it took me a long time to find a way to make that content feel comfortable on a screen 1/4 the size…and I think I’ve done it.
I spent a good amount of time looking at what magazines were already on the iPhone and it was pretty slim. One of the first disturbing trends I saw was that a lot of magazines made you download content incrementally, which sounds good, but since you couldn’t do anything until the download was finished it was very frustrating. The next problem was that the formatting was terrible. There was very little effort to design for the actual phone screen. When you’re looking at a magazine on the iPhone you just feel ripped off because it just looks like a shrunken version of the real thing; it’s the toy magazine you got out of a candy dispenser. The last problem I noticed was how to navigate through the magazines apps. Making a reading experience on the iPad that feels similar to a print magazine is understandable, but taking those concepts to a smaller screen doesn’t really work. So those were the problems I had with other magazine’s apps, but I also had problems about how to convert my own content with a very strict focus, and port that over to the iPhone. The answer I came up with was not to port over anything, start from scratch. Content always wins over design, so I looked at the content I had and re-imagined what Moral Tales would be if I actually made it as a magazine, instead of the film theory concept I used on the iPad.
I got rid of the black and white imagery and went for better uses of color. The color palette for the iPad version was taken from the earlier films from Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales, La Collectionneuse andMy Night at Maud’s. The iPhone version’s palette came from the later films Claire’s Knee and Love in the Afternoon. I reformatted all the content and made it fit naturally on the iPhone screen and of course made everything hi-res for retina displays. I expanded the social features in the iPhone version so that any article, not just the interviews can be shared on Facebook, (I hope to port this over to the iPad version shortly).
The navigation was something that I really took a long time to figure out. I couldn’t use the same techniques that I did in the iPad version because of space and I couldn’t use the system that other magazines use because, as I’ve already said, I hate them. I finally figured it out when I was playing with a deck of cards. I noticed that I pass through the deck vertically and I looked at what my hand was by spreading them out horizontally. The concept of cards is nothing new in iPhone design, I’m not trying to say that I made something completely original, but I do feel that this approach is what really make the iPhone version a great experience. Navigation is simple, you just flick up or down to move to another feature, swipe left or right to read it, and if you want to jump to a specific place just double tap to find what you’re looking for. It allows you to easily read the entire magazine while holding the phone with one hand and just using your thumb to navigate.
There really isn’t much more to say about the design of the iPhone version except some of you may wonder why I didn’t make it a universal app. Now I may do that in the future but it wasn’t a reasonable decision at the moment. I’m doing two different things with these apps and I’m testing different features. I didn’t think people would want to have to update their iPad app at 300mb because there was a change in the iPhone app and vice versa. I understand there are iPad customers out there that want to try this version out without having to pay twice for the same content, so here’s a solution I’ve come up with.