Stylish, glamorous and technically exceptional, the digital edition of Harrods Magazine is everything you would expect a high-end publication to be.
Harrods have been ahead of the digital curve for some time now. They released their iPad-only edition over two years ago, but have since acknowledged the demand for an Android and mobile version and earlier this year, released their fully-responsive native app.
I approached the magazine with high expectations; after all, Harrods are hardly likely to scrimp on quality. It is safe to say that both the Christmas Special and the December/January 2015 issues blew these expectations out of the water in a dazzling display of digital mastery; galleries, animations and high-end features came together to crown Harrods the king of the digital magazine game.
Kings of compatibility
Harrods Magazine is one of the best examples of a cross-platform publication that I’ve ever seen. This is thanks to Swipe, a German digital agency who pride themselves on making brands look good independently of the platform or medium. Their modular architecture ensures that the reading experience and design is not compromised on Android devices, mobile phones and desktops, and these are all designed through a single CMS.
It is heartening to see how much effort Harrods has put in to making the reading experience as accessible as possible, no matter what the digital preferences of its audience. This demonstrates that Harrods are well aware of the pitfalls surrounding exclusivity, and have content that is adaptive and responsive.
Unfortunately, I happened to stumble upon their online page-turner edition, done through Issuu. The poor quality of this is in stark contrast to the rest of the digital options available, and it is disappointing that they have chosen to offer a page-turner edition through such awful software. The pictures are pixellated (which is particularly evident on some of the highly detailed jewellery adverts) and nothing is linked up. For a comparable price, there are plenty of better page-turner options out there (such as Flipviewer), and Harrods could certainly afford a higher quality option.
Harrods has become synonymous with the London Christmas experience, with its world-famous window displays and lights illuminating Knightsbridge, but their first Christmas advert is a more humble piece of work. The heartwarming video (see below) opens the Christmas Special digital edition, focusing on a little mouse and his part in the Harrods Christmas story.
The way the extract from this film seamlessly integrates with the cover is stunning, and certainly works to draw the reader in. The little mice continue to feature throughout the rest of the issue as charming illustrations. Forget penguins, fairies and chocolate – this advert warms the heart before you’ve scrolled more than a few pages in.
Across the two issues, there are a couple of features that deserve a special mention. Firstly, the wonderful ‘Never mind the baubles’ tree decorating game, which presents you with a selection of trees and various collections of baubles and decorations available at Harrods. Every time a decoration is selected, the game presents an unobtrusive side banner with details of the item’s name, price and location. Simple but brilliant, and it all ties in to a competition to boot!
The only feature this game is missing is the ability to purchase the items directly from the game, or add them to a basket. Unfortunately, this game appears to be exclusive to the iPad, which is a shame as it made me wonder what else had been left out of the Android version. When the work has been done to make everything else compatible, this great game should have been given the Android push.
The second commendable feature is the interactive Make-Up Studio. I’ve seen a fair few digital make-up activities, but none done as well as this. Not only are you able to choose from 5 models (all with very different skin tones and types), but there are four high-end make-up collections with which you can do up the faces.
From eyeliner to mascara, lipstick and various shades of eyeshadow, you can layer and experiment with the make-up in a phenomenal level of detail. As with the Christmas tree decorations, you can view the price of each selected item, and these ones can be added directly to a shopping basket too. For a bonus point, this works brilliantly on my Android device.
One bauble short of perfection
Harrods magazine is as close to a flawless digital edition as you can get, but there are still one or two problems around the edges. The text doesn’t resize, and given its modular setup, this should be an easy additional feature to consider. Each issue is also very slow to download: at 192 MB for the Christmas Special and over 300 MB for the December/January 2015 edition, this certainly isn’t one to download unless you’re connected to the wifi.
My other problem with the magazine is regarding some of the content in the Christmas Special. I was surprised to find that in this day and age, Harrods have decided to create a ‘Gifts for Girls’ and ‘Gifts for Boys’ guide, with the former liberally sprinkled with candy pink bikes and Barbie dolls. The latter unsurprisingly is full of drones, cars and trains, with a predictable blue colour theme.
Can we not move past such damaging stereotypes, and segregate by interests instead? Why not segregate by activity, such as kid’s gadgets, motor toys, models and dolls?
An essential Christmas read
Not only have I come away feeling very festive, but I have been reassured that beautiful cross-platform digital publishing is being taken seriously by one of the most famous retailers in the world.
This is an essential read for all digital fans, both for its technical functionality and design prowess. Swipe must also be congratulated for doing a fantastic job, particularly with their streamlining of the publishing process for Harrods.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Digital Publishing at its finest.