From print to web to e-paper

S-10422 Stockholm nordqvist@ifra.com

This paper presents future scenarios of use and design of the e-newspaper, i.e. the newspaper on e-paper. These scenarios are based on experiences from prototyping e-newspaper interfaces and from a survey with newspaper designers and management. The findings show e.g. that the design from the printed edition and the functionality of the online newspaper were considered preferable attributes for the e-newspaper, and that mobility, interactivity, adjustment for special target groups and personalization were the most frequently suggested functionalities. Several issues regarding navigation, pagination, structure and overview were discussed during the prototyping, leading to layout suggestions for a one page 5.8 x 8.2 inches display with navigation both on the hardware and in the graphical user interface. Pagination was considered important as well as the ability to estimate the amount of content of the e-newspaper, and the possibility to return to the page from which an article was chosen to read. From the findings three future scenarios are proposed, for a) senior citizens in sparsely populated areas, b) business travelers, and c) young early adopters.

Keywords: e-paper, e-newspaper, design, GUI, future scenarios


Newspapers have a long tradition and centuries of experience behind today’s newspaper design. Pages, headlines, columns and fonts have been tuned in form and function to optimize content and context. They are all part of a user friendly and universally accepted product [1]. Newspapers have two internationally recognizable formats, i.e. broadsheet or tabloid, familiar to readers all over the world. The first online newspapers appeared only ten years ago in 1994 [2], and since then research has been done to gain knowledge about how to design user friendly news sites [3]. Today, we are facing the introduction of yet another media channel, the e-paper, which once again will require new design solutions for the graphical user interface (GUI).

E-paper is a wide and not defined term. For this paper we limit our research to the e-newspaper, i.e. a newspaper on e-paper, which will emerge on a new breed of e-Reader terminals based on E-Ink technology [4]. These future terminals will most likely be in the size of 5.8 x 8.2 inches, which has been used as a base for this paper.

There seems to be little doubt that e-paper has the potential to be an important development, widely adopted by newspaper publishers and readers. It combines many of

the qualities of printed paper with the advantages of electronic media – the ability to deliver new editions instantly and without the need to print copies and transport them over distances to thousands of retail outlets and millions of subscribers.

The change in the dimensions of printed broadsheet or tabloid newspapers into a smaller, digital e-paper format will radically change the user experience. Presumably, this e-newspaper solution will not replace the web but rather aims at replacing the printed newspaper in the future. When designing the e-newspaper, the best from both worlds, i.e. print and web, should be considered in combination with the unique advantages of this new media, since expectations based on previous experiences influence the acceptance of new artifacts [5].

Fidler [5] states that for digital print media “to function as a practical alternative to mechanical printing and pulp paper, digital print media […] will need to be highly portable and simple enough for anyone to use without having to read a manual. As with traditional print media, digital forms must be comfortable and convenient to read while lying in bed, riding on a subway, dining in a restaurant, or sitting on a park bench. They will also need to integrate some of the more compelling elements of cybermedia, such as interactivity, hypertext, and audio/video clips, without sacrificing the readability and ease of using paper” [5, p.236].

Despite all advantages of the e-newspaper it will probably not be easy to replace the printed edition since users often stick to experienced ways and behaviors [6]. It will most likely take at least a decade, since acceptance of new artifacts in society may take longer than would be expected [7]. The five most important attributes that influence the diffusion of new ideas and innovations have been identified by Rogers [8], e.g. a) ‘relative advantage’, i.e. added value in relation to existing artifacts, b) perceived ‘compatibility’ to existing technology, c) ‘complexity’, i.e. the degree of recognition in relation to experiences from using existing artifacts, d) ‘trialability’ the degree to which an innovation may be experienced with on a limited basis, and e) ‘observability’, i.e. the degree other people use the new artifact. In addition to these attributes, Fidler [5] added ‘familiarity’ as a sixth attribute, i.e. the degree to which new forms of media are related to earlier forms. Further, he argues that it is not the technology that drives new forms of new media but the content, the usability, convenience and cost. With this in mind, it is essential for the publishers to find initial target groups when launching their e-newspaper, such as early adopters and readers in sparsely populated areas.

In this paper, we first present empirical results from two parallel studies. From these studies we a) report from experiences with prototyping e-newspaper interfaces, and b) discuss prerequisites for e-newspaper design from a publisher view. Based on the above we then propose a set of future scenarios for e-newspaper use and design.

In the next section, an introduction to e-paper technology is presented, followed by a discussion of newspaper design. The method used is then described followed by a description of the empirical results. We thereafter propose a set of scenarios for the e-newspaper. The paper is then concluded with a discussion of the findings.


Electronic ink consists of millions of microcapsules in the size of a hair. These microcapsules contain white positive and black negative magnetic particles floating in a

clear liquid. These white and black particles appear depending on electrical fields being positive or negative. This gives the look of black ink on paper.

An electronic display is created by printing the E-ink on thin, plasticised, paper- like sheets which thereafter is laminated with circuits. It is possible to apply E-ink on different materials such as glass, plastic and paper since the technology is not bound to a particular carrier. In figure 1 the E-ink technology is illustrated on a Philips device.

The human eye can not perceive any flicker on the display because of the fast updating frequency. This technology gives sharpness six times higher than an ordinary LCD display. The contrast is as good as on printed paper and no background light is needed, leading to high readability. The power consumption is very low due to that power is only needed when updating, the image on the display remains when the power is turned off. The e-paper technology is rapidly developed and a thin, flexible display has been developed by Philips (see figure 2).

image image




Newspapers have a long experience of designing print media but the design of online newspapers is still in its infancy [10]. In Nielsen’s [10] predictions for the future, he speculates that over the next ten years (from 2000), the traditional newspaper will be dead and news will be consumed interactively through digital media. He argues that media workers must modify their skills for the interactive age, since reading online is different from reading print. Therefore publishers need to change their styles and must learn to incorporate interactivity in publishing news.

There is a tradition of layout (visual pattern) for newspapers that seem to be taken for granted – the so called broadsheet layout. The broadsheet metaphor is described as “a newspaper layout of text and photographs […] integrated into a coherent presentation” [11, p. 151]. The visual pattern for newspapers is strongly related to the front page according to Schmid-Isler [12]. She describes the visual pattern as a) the name of the newspaper – the brand, b) the number of columns, c) headings, d) photographs and e) table of contents (often to the left), an according to Toms and Campbell [13] a reader may recognize a digital document as a newspaper even before reading the content, through the appearance of columns and headlines.

Interestingly, the first web news providers adopted the web’s single document window mode of presentation. Garcia [14] presented advice for publishers for redesign of printed news to the web in 1997, where the design of online news differs from printed news. Now, the dominant online newspaper genre appears to be evolving back to

something closer to its original genre in print [15; 16]. Cato [17] refers to the design of online newspapers as the newsprint style and has found that it seems to have gained predominance on the web.

Newspaper sections enable a reader easy access and make sense of information [14]. It does not take much effort to find a particular section e.g. the sport section or the business section, inside a newspaper. The newspaper indexing is the most effective “navigational” tool in newspapers and headlines are the main entry points to text. According to Garcia [14] all publications, printed or digital, should minimize the number of items that appear as navigational tools. In online newspapers, readers scroll the front page to get an overview of the contents of the news site, which could be compared to browsing and flipping through the printed newspaper [18]


Advertisement – links to cyber- media ad space.

Top story summary – link to complete story.

Navigation menu1)

Depart- ment buttons3)

Control buttons4)


– link to ad page

Section button2)

Nameplate – link to page of information about the paper.

Fidler [19] has among others envisioned the newspaper of 2020. He suggests the following layout for the portable digital newspaper in 2020:

Promo – link to items that match reader’s preferences.

Top story summary – link to complete story.

Lead article – links to video clips.

Top story summary – link to complete story.


1) constant element that present readers with their standard navigational and operational options

2) links to available sections. Current open section is highlighted.

3) links to available departments within open section

4) used for turning pages, linking to dynamic indexes, searching, saving and printing, setting personal preferences, closing newspaper etc.


This paper draws on empirical results from two parallel studies. In the first, e-newspaper prototypes were proposed and evaluated in collaboration with newspaper publishers, and in the second, questionnaires were sent to management and designers at newspapers with online editions.

Fourteen Swedish newspapers, interested in the progress of e-paper technology, have formed a group in which the future e-newspaper has been discussed and low fidelity

prototypes have been produced. During the project meetings, two different aspects of an e-paper were discussed, i.e. business models and design. A smaller working group interested in design of the print as well as the online edition produced prototypes after brainstorming sessions in an iterative process. In this paper we report from the experience of this work and present four layout prototypes.

In parallel, a questionnaire was send via e-mail to five of the fourteen newspapers that recently have become dedicated to a project with the aim to develop a design for the e-newspaper. The questionnaire contained 16 open questions regarding a) possibilities and problems, b) design solutions from print and web that could be transferred to the e-paper media and c) prerequisites for design of the e-newspaper. The results were analyzed using a coding scheme to identify common as well as differing views, and the results form a base for a set of future scenarios.


E-newspaper prototypes

When creating the mock-ups and low-fidelity prototypes several issues where discussed regarding layout of the small display, for example: navigation, pagination, structure and overview.

Navigation issues concerned physical buttons or wheels on the hardware as well as providing navigation through menus and bars in the GUI. Concerns were expressed for users with little or no prior usage of digital devices. With this in mind, the group recommended buttons on the hardware in combination with providing navigation support on screen. The question about what functionality the navigation buttons should provide was also raised, a default sequential order was suggested, i.e. from top to bottom. In the beginning the group was working with two displays in 5.8 x 8.2 inches size folded as a book, as illustrated in figure 3 and 4.

image image


But problems with navigation were experienced with this approach, i.e. when turning pages, questions like should a new spread be shown or should the left display be used for navigation etc arose. It was also a question of cost, and the group decided to abandon the double displays for a single display, as illustrated in figure 5 and 6.

image image


Pagination in the GUI could facilitate navigation but could be problematic in parallel publishing if the whole content from the printed edition is not to be published in the e-newspaper in the introduction phase. However, it was considered important to provide the reader with page numbers for three reasons, i.e. for the user to know: a) how many pages that exist, b) which page that is viewed at the moment, and c) how many pages are left to read.

The structure and overview issues discussed regards that the reader easily should be able to estimate the amount of content of the e-newspaper, and the possibility to return to the page from which an article was chosen to read. The principle for the e-newspaper has to be simple, i.e. “open, turn pages, chose article, read and return”. Additional interactivity, moving images and sounds were considered a bonus for the more advanced reader.

Results from questionnaires

Possibilities and problems with an e-newspaper

The most frequently possibilities mentioned regarded technical aspects. For example, possibilities of providing: updates during the day, interactivity, added value, combining the e-newspaper with complementary subscriptions and services, and possibility of searching. Economic possibilities were also frequently mentioned, e.g. lower distribution costs, and new business model that benefits publishers, readers as well technical providers. Other mentioned possibilities were environmental advantages and reaching new target audiences. The e-newspaper is expected to replace the printed edition in the future.

The e-newspaper is expected to solve the problem with high distribution and printing costs as well as to reach sparsely populated areas. It is also considered more environmentally friendly and capable of personalization. On the negative side, the respondents had the most concerns about the journalistic and competence issues as well as the economical issues. The journalistic worries concerned changed reader habits, if the newspaper chose to publish less material than in the printed edition, that the impact of


For the e-newspaper to become widely adopted by newspaper readers and subscribers, it has to offer added value to existing newspaper media. Using Rogers attributes that influence diffusion of new ideas and innovations, we here discuss the potential of the e-newspaper in relation to the design challenge.

As we have shown in our scenarios, the e-newspaper holds the potential of combining the advantages of the printed newspaper (e.g. mobility, lightweight, newspaper layout, readability) with the advantages of the online newspaper (e.g. interactivity, digital distribution). This combination offers extended advantages in relation to the currently existing newspaper media. New ways of thinking about news publishing and the newspaper product, e.g. new services embedded in the newspaper product and interactive ads, are made possible by this new media,. The compatibility of the e-newspaper to existing newspaper publishing systems is important for the diffusion of the future e-newspaper. The challenge is to design newspaper resembled interaction models and navigation systems easy recognized by readers. The design challenge regarding the complexity attribute is related to usability issues, such as simplicity, ease of use, learnability etc. If a reader can relate to their experiences of reading newspapers, the adoption process will be made easier. To allow trialability of the product, we believe that the e-newspaper has to be very affordable in introduction phase. A strategy could be to place it for free at different locations, for the readers to get acquainted with it, which also increases the observability. Increased observability could also be gained by initially targeting early adopters of technology.

As regards to familiarity, it is strongly related to the design challenge, i.e. to translate the design from the printed edition and the functionality from the online edition into this new technology, making a synthesis based on usability. Using the broadsheet metaphor for layout and structure increases familiarity.

The suggested scenarios will serve as a basis for further prototype development, and the knowledge gained from the empirical result, together with Fidler’s layout suggestion for the portable digital newspaper (Figure 2), will be used in our future work.

In conclusion, we believe that there is a great potential of this new media to be successful for newspaper publishing. But, the newspaper designers now stand before the greatest design challenge since Gutenberg.


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