LLS–Lazy Layout Syndrome, I call it. I still see design mistakes happening in niche magazines that really detract from the reader experience. There’s really no excuse for it! Sure, you have a small staff and you’re jamming to get to deadline, but publishing a quality magazine must be the priority if you really want to connect with your readers.
Here a couple of common layout mistakes in niche magazines and solutions to make your magazine shine:
Mistake #1: Poor layout killing the editorial flow. A good space planner doesn’t just get the ad/edit percentage right–they also know how to sustain the reader’s interest. Often there is just too much advertising packed into the first few pages, unrelieved by content. Pandering to advertisers backfires because readers sense they are being pushed around.
Solution: Instead, try for a balanced flow with editorial to engage your readers from the start. Feature stories need clean, open spreads. Then overflow can be jumped to the back of the book. It is always a balancing act, but the reader comes first!
Mistake #2: Even flipping through a magazine quickly reveals editors who miss the basics. The reader is confronted by a jumble of fonts, column widths that widely vary and other cues that the book is going off the rails.
Solution: If you don’t have a style guide or don’t know what a grid is, you’ve got work to do. These tools create a consistent look and feel and prevent chaos that make your readers struggle. If you staff is small and expertise is limited, then you need to put in place a grid format so layout stays clean and uncluttered. You can get help on this on a one-time basis and it will speed up production too. A written style guide keeps editors and writers consistent, especially useful in managing industry trade jargon.
Here’s a few more of my quick tips to getting it right:
- Long articles can look intimidating to busy readers. Break up long copy blocks with pull quotes, charts/graphs or boxed content with summary points.
- Steal good headline starters: For example, “One Startup’s Struggle to Survive the….” or “The Untold Story of …..” or “Why Women Aren’t Welcome …”. Stockpile generic starters that you can customize to your edit.
- Things to eliminate: I nominate the Editor’s column for most books unless you can tell a good story, otherwise drop it or keep it short. And please kill crossword puzzles or other obvious filler. Keep a file of short, timeless content for emergency hole-fillers.
So don’t take the easy way out. Keep these tips in mind and connect to your readers with a stand-out layout instead!
More about Steve: Steve Rank has a marketing background for both consumer and trade magazine magazines. A former ad agency owner, he has also worked as a film publicist and news correspondent. Steve is now an advisor and guest blogger for Niche Media HQ.
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