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Virgin Holidays have just launched their first digital publication – ‘Unleashed’. Is its sleek design and interactive content enough to make it stand out in the world of Digital Publishing?

Virgin unleashed_1Despite having a somewhat predictable image on the front cover, my first impression of the magazine is that I’m definitely going to come away wanting to book a holiday somewhere exotic. Both the cover and Branson’s introduction to ‘Unleashed’ are full of challenges: ‘Could you zipline above a jungle canopy?’; ‘Have you got what it takes to become a sushi master?’ and ‘Come on, Dive in!’.

Well, I don’t mind if I do.

From a content perspective, this was always going to be a high-calibre way of selling holidays, and ‘Unleashed’ certainly doesn’t disappoint. With features covering dining on super foods in Dubai, life-changing moments in Mauritius and and the beaches of Grenada, Virgin have grabbed the opportunity to display collection of glorious images to tempt even the most travel-adverse Brit to foreign shores.

Thrown into the mix are a number of staff recommendations, travel app reviews, interviews and advice columns to pad out the tempting reel of potential holiday destinations. These are what give the magazine its value and make it worth the read, taking it a step up from a fancy travel brochure.

So, having made a splash into the publishing world, how does ‘Unleashed’ fare as a digital magazine?

Interactivity done right

The design for ‘Unleashed’ is, unsurprisingly, world-class. The crisp colours, fonts and images work seamlessly together to present an incredibly sexy publication, and the time, love and money spent on it has definitely paid off. The new iPad’s retina display is a lethal combination with publications like this – reality cannot compare to the crystal clear visions on the screen.

For the less technical user, there are plenty of helpful hints scattered throughout, highlighting which parts are animated and which way this article swipes; the importance of which cannot be underestimated when launching a new magazine.

One gem which could take the fashion world by storm is the ‘Your Holiday Wardrobe’ feature. Apart from asking me to chose my ‘Swag’  (‘Swag’…really? That’s only an appropriate phrase if you think Bieber is cool), the clever mix-and-match slider is an interesting addition, and also has links allowing you to buy the clothes featured. Ideal if you wanted to know where to find those cute sandals, or think your man would look dashing in the pink sweater.

The magazine also features a moveable pizza with reviews of New York’s pizza restaurants. Very cool (when swiping sideways doesn’t clash with moving pizza slices) and a very creative way of presenting reviews. Oh, and it’s a sure-fire way of making the reader’s stomach grumble.

Compatibility issues

However, navigation is a pitfall, and often is with new digital publications. The contents page only highlights the features, making it difficult to quickly find smaller pieces of content I’d found interesting on a first flick through. Sometimes you swipe down, sometimes you swipe across, and the lack of clarity surrounding the article pathway made me feel like I was risking missing out on content.

My biggest irritation with the magazine is the constant presence of animation. Like a child let loose on Powerpoint, text flashes, pictures zoom in and out and contents swish by in enough movement to make your average reader travel-sick. Animation is a great tool and can really bring a touch of class to a publication, but ‘Unleashed’ has gone overboard to the detriment of the gorgeous design. Minimise the use of animated effects, and it’ll be all the more effective when it does fly in.

After such a glorious iPad experience, and with the website promising me they had produced an Android-friendly version (bonus points there), I went to access it on a Nexus 7 – one of the most popular Android tablets on the market. I was unable to find it on the Play store, and it was only when attempting to manually download it from Chrome that the message flashed up: ‘Your device isn’t compatible with this version’. And yes, before you ask, the tablet has got the latest operating system installed. Compatibility is KEY with digital publications, and having a magazine that can’t be accessed from a popular device isn’t a good move. Sometimes, sacrificing some of the gimmicks and putting time and effort into a mobile strategy is rewarding by increasing the number of devices that can be reached.

It remains to be seen which of the magazine’s features are merely showing off what can be done, and which are strokes of creative genius (pizza box…I’m looking at you) as the team behind it begin to get into their stride. It’s worth downloading (and it’s free too!) just to admire what can be achieved in digital publishing with enough money. Yes…sigh with envy…this isn’t a publication that could be produced on a budget, but as production technology improves, perhaps some of its more impressive features will become easier to integrate.

Design:
★★★★★

Navigation:
★★★☆☆

Content:
★★★★☆

Compatibility:
★☆☆☆☆

‘Wow’ factor:
★★★★☆

Download ‘Unleashed’ for free for Apple and Android.

 

 

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