Designing the Black Enterprise iPad App

Designing the Black Enterprise iPad App

As the vice president/creative director of Black Enterprise, Terence Saulsby is responsible for the look and feel of the brand, regardless of the medium. But he will be one of the first to admit that print has been the primary medium of concern for BE during his tenure at the media company. Black Enterprise is only now nearing completion of a mobile site, which, by all accounts, makes them late to the handheld party.  However, as Saulsby has realized along the journey of creating the BE iPad app, what the brand is doing on the iPad gives them an undeniable opportunity to be a leader in the space.

How long have you been directing the look and feel of BE?
I’ve been on the magazine for about 12 years.

And is this your first time reproducing the monthly mag–or any content–for a tablet device?

So what was this process like for you?
When we first started this a couple of months ago–it’s been a really quick turnaround process for us–the industry was touting the iPad as the savior of print magazines. So all of the things that came out before or had been touted–other than maybe like a Sports Illustrated, a Time Warner vehicle, where you’ve got extremely deep pockets to facilitate filling out the video content–most of the things we had seen before were pretty much one-to-one representations of print pages.  And that’s where we were initially leaning, basically kind of just porting the magazine over, as is, into the iPad, almost like a Zinio-like product. But after a couple of weeks of actually considering that, we decided to go the full route and redesign the magazine for the iPad and lay it out differently.

In doing that we realized that the information can be delivered in a different way. You can break the information up differently from a magazine and make it somewhat more interactive.  So it’s been kind of a learning process for us. This is the first time we’ve done this, and seeing what the device allows you to do versus what you’re allowed to do on the static page is kind of eye-opening.  So we’ve been playing with that as much as we can while still sticking to the Wealth for Life mission of Black Enterprise.

I noticed that the page layout changes when you switch between the horizontal and vertical orientations of the iPad, which not all apps do. Did this design choice make the process more difficult?
It’s much more difficult to do it that way because you have to lay the pages out twice. Everything has to be done twice. It has to be checked twice, it has to be proofed twice, and quite honestly, it’s a pain in the neck.  But I think it gives the user a better experience. Because no matter what orientation you’re viewing it in, you still get a well-designed experience.

What’s the normal turnaround time for the print versus the iPad edition?
We separate the processes because the magazine gets a final-final proof before it goes to print, well after it’s laid out in pages. If we tried to marry the two processes, then you’d have to proof the pages concurrently and make all the changes concurrently. So we get the print version complete first–which takes two to three weeks to get printed and delivered–and that gives us a nice little window in order to work on the iPad version. We strip the text out of the print version and reformat everything. And the proofing process goes a lot quicker because it was already finalized once.  Our copy team, at that point, is only checking for my mistakes.  It really only takes us about three days of focusing on the iPad to get all the layouts redone, and then another three days to proof everything and make all the changes, and get the assets ready for delivery. So that’s about a six-day turnaround whereas the magazine is generally about a three-week turnaround.