What You Need To Know About Designing For Digital First

Posted by Mark Troast on May 3, 2016 3:44:00 PM

In Content, B2B, Strategy

In our previous blog post about adopting Envoy, we covered centralized product data. In this post, we’ll continue by examining what you need to consider when adopting a new digital medium for your marketing content.

One of the huge advantages of using the Envoy platform is that it is built with strong marketing components that can greatly increase the efficiency of the production and distribution of your marketing assets. This efficiency isn’t fully realized, however, without a shift to what we call Digital First. Digital First is a simple idea: Design your marketing assets for a digital medium first and then adapt them for print. But it has some big implications. Let’s unpack them.

On the technical side of things, the biggest issues your team is likely to encounter when transitioning to Digital First include aspect ratios, file types and interactivity.

When designing for print, your team has always been able to work with the static aspect ratio of the paper they were going to print to. But now they will have to consider the multitude of screens on which their design might be viewed. There are a few different ways to approach this problem. The easiest - though often least desirable - option is to simply letterbox the content. Think of this as similar to viewing a PDF on an iPad, where the layout and content act as one solid piece and don’t reflow when on differently sized screens but simply shrinks to fit. If you know the medium in which the content will be displayed (e.g. the Envoy iPad app), this solution can be ideal due to its simplicity and lower tech overhead. The other option, though potentially more difficult, is to design and build the content using tools and principles that allow for consistent reflowing of the content on different screens. You’ve probably seen this on certain responsively designed websites that alter their layout based on window size. The Envoy platform accepts content built in HTML5, which allows for full interactivity and reflow of design elements to adjust to different screen aspect ratios.

On the issue of file types, the main considerations are compatibility, resolution and storage. First, you’ll need to make sure your files are able to be displayed where your end-users will be viewing them. In traditional print, your team could load photoshop files into InDesign and output for print. However, Photoshop .psd files can’t be displayed in standard web browsers, so these files will need to be converted before distribution. Thankfully, Envoy can display all standard web formats, and our mobile app can display any file type that the iPad itself can display. Once you’ve handled the compatibility of your files, you’ll need to address their resolution. This is similar to optimizing files for the web, in that it’s all about striking a balance between appearance (making sure the files look acceptable on the screen) and file size. Since these files will need to be downloaded (and in some cases stored) by the user, it’s important to keep this in mind. You can find more on optimizing files here.

Finally, you’ll have to consider interactive elements in your content. Since there is no real equivalent in print, this will be a new consideration for your team.

Envoy can handle two types of interactive content: the standard HTML5 content we mentioned earlier and our proprietary format that you can create using our Studio tool. Regardless of which you use, you’ll need to decide if you will include interactive elements in your content, and we strongly encourage you to do so.

Another major area your team will see a change is in scheduling. This will likely be an easier adjustment since, for the most part, digital moves faster. For example, once a piece of content is created and approved, there is no need to build in extra time for printing and shipping. You simply distribute it via the Envoy platform and your users have access to it instantly. And if you are used to postponing and grouping updates to minimize re-printing costs, you’ll be happy to know that Envoy’s content updating system is quick and painless. Simply update your content in our system and when you distribute it, only those elements that have changed will be sent to your users, minimizing their download time and allowing you to update as often as needed.

Change in Mindset

It’s important to remember that adopting a digital-first workflow does not mean that you are not designing for print. It simply means that you are designing your assets in a way that allows them to be used in a variety of mediums with minimal reworking. Print is just another one of these mediums - albeit one that will require a few adjustments specific to print, as I lay out below.

First, since print requires higher resolution and a different color space (CMYK vs. RGB), you will need some process to swap these assets into your print files before exporting them to your printer. This may simply mean that you create a workflow loop that integrates the necessary aspects of your current print workflow into your new digital workflow, but it may require specific tweaks to accommodate your unique situation.

Second, if your original layouts have interactive elements (buttons, scrolling text, etc.), you’ll need to either remove these features or alter the layout to accommodate them fully.

Though there is some internal adjustment that is necessary, we’ve found that the marketing teams we’ve worked with welcome the change and are more than happy with the results. This is because, ultimately, designing for digital first, besides loosening tight deadlines, greatly increases the creative possibilities for marketing assets. Meanwhile, managers are relieved because their workflows remain largely intact and their budgets are freed up due to the reduced or eliminated printing costs.

Finally, Envoy’s content services team is always here to consult on your projects and provide the added bandwidth to pull together all your GTM strategies ahead of your season.

Stay tuned for our next posts in this series on business intelligence software and product segmentation!


You can check out our previous entry in this series, What You Need To Know About Centralized Product Data Workflow.


Subscribe to the Envoy B2B blog!