Adobe DPS 101: For Print Designers Transitioning to Digital

Using the Adobe DPS (Digital Publishing Suite) to make a phone or tablet app is just like using any other product, it’s a tool. Strong creatives will be successful regardless of the tool they use. It is about how you use the tool.

If you are not familiar with DPS, print designers love it because it allows you to create apps in InDesign. It allows designers to create and update apps without needing developers. That said html code can be added, as well as integrating a range of other programs and plugins, i.e. Edge Animate, After Effects, Salesforce . .  .

Storycode began as a platform agnostic shop. A few years ago we made the decision to create apps only in DPS, and we stopped using native code or other platforms. There were many reasons that brought us to that decision. Here is a snapshot of some of them:

Apps took considerably longer to create using native code
• Having someone hard code an app means it took months, instead of days, for the build.
• We were constantly faced with having to decide to fix design details that changed as a result of the code or to stay on time/budget.
• We were at the mercy of the outside developers schedule and staffing.

Non-DPS platforms and native apps were much more expensive to create
• Dependency on outside developers, and the amount of time it took to create apps using other platforms or native code were considerably higher.
• For clients, it meant that if they wanted to make major changes or create a new design, it was often like starting over (both in time and cost).

The design was never exactly as envisioned
• Not being able to have complete control over the details was soul-crushing. Even when we spent a great deal of time managing the developers, there were often limitations out of their control, and the design was less than what it could be.
Choosing one platform allowed us to become experts at it, serving our clients better, and allow us to be more effective and efficient.

Since DPS is created directly from indesign files, apps can be created as quickly as print. We set aside the same amount of time for creative as we would if it were a printed piece. Then as a rule, we allocate 10 days to go back into our indesign files and “build” (add the interactivity to the file). Of course this is just a guideline, one that we shoot for. We have built our share of apps in much less time. Our record is 4 hours. But we prefer to have time to test it, get client input and improve it.

The biggest change in work flow is figuring out the best way to present comps to clients. Unfortunately presenting a flat comp is not an effective way to show the client how the app will look and function. But building it in order to present a comp means a lot of extra work. Our solution is to build a few key screens, so the client can see how it works, without the workload of building the entire app.

Testing is the most humbling part of transitioning to digital. Even when the design of your navigation seems so obvious and clear, it is pretty common that a user will pick up the device and start tapping and swiping in ways you never intended. Stand back, watch, adjust. Testing with the project’s specific target group is vital to its success.

Less is more
Designers transitioning to digital sometimes make the mistake of including interactivity just for the sake of interactivity. Adding all the tricks they’ve been eagerly waiting to use. But using too many bells and whistles will give you a way as a novice. Slow down. Phones and tablets aren’t going away. Less really is more. Add interactivity only as it adds value to the content and user experience.

• The more you can narrow the focus of your app, the easier it will be on the user. Think a pair of shoes, not the entire closet.

• It’s easy to get overwhelmed by options the first time you create an app. You suddenly have audio, video, movement, transitions, in addition to all the choices you had in print. My first app I felt like I was rubbing my stomach, patting my head and jumping rope. But once I got my first app under my belt, that feeling went away. I like to say, hurry up and get your first app out of your way, because once you do, your perspective and approach will be very different.