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The new issuu


Beautifully Brainy

Meet the #newissuu reading experience.

Editor in Chief Alette Holmberg-Nielsen Writer Joel Barnard Creative Director Nicole Chiala Guest Illustrator Maya Gürtler Lorentzen

The issuuees: Alexander Grosse, Amalie Rosenstand, Anders Hellerup Madsen, Anders Fugmann, Andreas Dahl, Andrei Ungureanu, Cameron Gallacher, Christian Kastbjerg, Denise Twum, Elise Sabbag, Fabio Stabel, Fernando Romero, Francesco Zanitti, Frej Soya, Grace Cheung, Greta Baranauskaité, Jesper Torp Kristensen, Jesper Holm Olsen, Joe Hyrkin, John Sturino, Jonas Nielsen, Joshua Davis, Karen Mørkholt, Kenneth Skovhus, Lasse Bach, Laurits Langberg, Louise Gonzalez Lauridsen, Maciej Pekala, Mads Sejersen, Marie Bjerregaard, Martin Koch, Matt B., Michael England, Michelle Yang, Mie Tandrup, Mikkel Jensen, Musharrif Hussain, Nicolai Gylling, Paul Kim, Peter Assentorp, Rachel Torres, Rob Siwek, Rolf Ussing, Simon Ellefsen, Slavko Krucaj, Slawomir Smiechura, Søren Thomsen and Yan Hong. The issuu Interns: Anisa Tavangar, Ashley Zhang, Jessica Wong, Joseph Kind, Kaija Hsiao and Maya Kandell. The issuu Production Babies: Frode, Issac, Lea, Lucjia and Naja. Special Thanks: Fredrik Linåker, Juan Jose Romano, Jiyu Zhang, Jonas B. Jensen, Mads Hartmann, Raghav Karol, Sorin Dimofte and Søren Vind. This publication was created using Adobe InDesign. The project workflow was managed seamlessly using issuu Collaborate, the easiest way to plan and produce publications in one place.

Carefully Crafted, Freshly Squeezed When I joined issuu as a Senior

we still questioned everything

Product Owner exactly one year

and chose better over faster.

ago, the thing I first noticed was the care and passion with which

With this premier issue of

everything here is crafted. From

ORANGE JUICE we’ll share the

the beautiful content being

story of our remarkable year-

uploaded by publishers to the

long journey. It’s definitely not

animated discussions of technical

your typical tech story about a

architecture, an acute attention

shiny new feature or an amazing

to detail was everywhere I looked.

growth story. It’s much grittier

These were definitely my kind

than that. Our story is about the

of people.

dedication, hard work and sheer guts necessary to rebuild the very

During my first week at issuu, I

core of a massive existing product.

was thrown into a major project

And we figured what better vehicle

— at the time no one knew how

to tell our story than the one

big it was going to be — rewriting

that hundreds of thousands of

the core of issuu from scratch.

issuu publishers use to tell theirs

Initially, we were driven by the

each month. It’s also the perfect

upcoming changes in the browsers

opportunity for us to show

(i.e. the slow death of Flash).

off all the big little details we’ve

However, as we started digging

built into issuu’s incredible new

into it, it turned out to be so much

reading experience.

more than just about technology. We were re-engineering and

Happy reading!

redesigning issuu to be ready for the future. Despite working under

­Alette Holmberg-Nielsen

taxing deadlines, I’m proud to say

Editor in Chief

When Life Gives You Oranges...

Words by Joel Barnard Illustrations by Maya Gßrtler Lorentzen With the world changing around us, the issuu team saw an opportunity to reimagine the reading experience from the inside out while keeping true to the original issuu vision. Time wasn’t on our side, but our aim to deliver a stellar reading experience everywhere and our commitment to quality was.

If there’s one constant in the

had faced before — could we

technology game, it’s change.

change the experience millions

The better, faster, smarter

of people already love in ways

version is always just around

that would make them love it

the corner. Sometimes no one

even more? Would it be possible

sees it coming. Sometimes its

to rebuild such a large plane

arrival date is plastered on every

mid-flight? And how much

blog, bus and billboard. And in

time would we have to do it?

the case of the imminent demise

One thing we knew for certain

of browser and mobile support

is we would stay true to our

for Flash (the core technology

philosophy of not rushing

issuu’s reading experience was

products to market that we couldn’t be proud of. Of course,

I was really excited to work on this project because we had a chance to rethink all the past established practices. We didn’t do things the same way, just because that’s how they were always done. Instead, we searched for the absolute best way to deal with each task.

this time the stakes were much

— Maciej Pękala, Engineer

Senior Product Owner, Alette

higher. It was a race we couldn’t lose. And yet, no one knew if doing things the right way would allow us to reach the finish line in time.

All or Nothing By mid-2015, we began by putting together a rock-solid engineering team tasked with finding a solution. This included several long-standing issuu engineers, plus some newer brains, like the project’s Holmberg-Nielsen. In the very

built on), it has been a long time

early days of the project, our

coming. Smartphones never had

end goal wasn’t completely

(real) Flash support, and the

clear and a vision had yet to

desktop browsers announced

be formed. We were driven by

they would finally be pulling the

the slow death of Flash in the

plug “sometime” in 2016.

browsers, but according to Alette, “It quickly turned out

Staring down the barrel of this

this could not — and should not

unknown deadline, we faced

— be only about a technology

the dilemma other companies

change. Really, it had to be about

Anders Lead / Back-end

Soren Director

Alette Product Owner

Peter UX

Mie Support

Frej Back-end

Yan Front-end

Anders Front-end

Greta Support

Mads Full-Stack

Setting Up the Team The team was set up with people having different experience, skill sets and personalities. Four developers had worked on various aspects of our previous reading experiences. Three developers, the product owner and the designer were new. Team members had a mix of artisan, science and philosophical backgrounds, and everyone was highly motivated. One key to our success was our ability to listen to each other (even during heated discussions) and treat each other with respect. We also had a good balance of agitators and moderators. All meetings were open to everyone on the team and those in attendance understood their roles. We almost always pair programmed. And rather than having only experienced people making decisions, we gave newer members a bigger voice, which worked out surprisingly well. Søren D. Thomsen Director of Engineering

Rachel Marketing

making sure issuu remained the best reading experience on every device and browser everywhere.” Not a group content doing things halfway, we set off on a quest to redesign, re-engineer and reimagine what has always

Beautifully Brainy Responsive, instantaneous, discoverable goodness.

been issuu’s core product — the reading experience. And

As a company, we never stand still (or go backwards). We create, respond to our customers problems and work hard to make issuu a better place for everyone. ­— Greta Baranauskaité, Customer Support Associate

Same Embed, Everywhere With a newly redesigned embed, your publications are a lot more responsive, interactive, branded and incredibly consistent no matter where they are on the web.

No-Wait Loading In addition to a more user-friendly

we would do it using HTML5,

layout, the new issuu reading

the new gold standard in

experience is much more snappy and

technology. It wasn’t the first

responsive. Opening any publication

time we had attempted to build

on the page is nearly instantaneous.

an HTML5 reading experience, but our previous attempts never exceeded what Flash

Discovery Made Easy

could deliver. This time things had to be different. But would

Redesigned shelves below the

there be enough time?

publication and added “Read More” section so it’s easier than

Less, but Better

ever to discover something new,

When we started digging deep

including similar publications,

into the core of the Flash

recommendations and the

reading experience, we quickly

publisher’s back catalog.

While having a beautiful browsing experience when you flip through pages, we now make it much more natural to start reading and dive into the content. ­ —Anders Fugmann, Team Lead

Obvious Always Wins

Easy on the Eyes

Improved navigational elements,

Uploaded files are split into layers

like page arrows moved off the publication, which has increased the number of pages people are reading.

of high-res JPEGs and text layers to enable crisp, clean text that’s easy to read at all zoom levels. Even the 5pt. disclaimer type that your insurance company doesn’t want you to read.

realized this seemingly simple product was a big beast filled with many features added over the years. Getting a complete overview felt almost like an archeological dig. In total, we were faced with 70 or so different features to implement. Even if we could throw together a

So we asked ourselves what is absolutely essential to the issuu reading experience. feature per week (which would be impossible), it would take over a year to get to the first release. Not exactly within our timeframe. So we asked ourselves what is absolutely essential to the issuu reading experience. To

Page Flip Heaven

answer that question, we trawled through all the comments from our publishers and we studied

If you haven’t noticed by now, a

the behavior of our readers. We

completely new page flip animation,

focused our efforts on a simple

which is better than anything else

and intuitive interface for

out there. Slowly lift a corner to see

reading, crystal-clear text and

what we mean.

a beautiful home-brewed page flip animation. And without question, all features needed to work everywhere — on small and

Throughout the process I’ve been amazed at what a small team can accomplish and what a difference a relatively small company can make for millions of people who enjoy independent publications. — Alette Holmberg-Nielsen, Senior Product Owner

large screens, as well as on all touch, mouse and trackpad devices. Trying to get everything to work flawlessly everywhere ate up a lot more of our time than expected. Needless to say, the calendar pages kept on turning

Truth Is a Compass Knowing we had to get things absolutely right, continuous feedback from users became an indispensable development tool. Every week we set up tests asking users to complete a series of tasks and then speak about their pain points while being recorded. And

Building the Right Thing The biggest challenge we faced during the development of the new experience was creating a modern, responsive, beautiful and functional UI. With the new version we revisited all the decisions that had been made in the past, and made a new interface based on user tests, A/B testing and of course the considerable experience of our excellent UI and UX designers. Anders Hellerup Madsen Frontend Developer

every week, we refined and released a new and improved version. We tested the version currently in wide use, as well as our latest build

Making It All Hum

of the new reading experience.

To me, the biggest challenge has

Watching people struggle is

been performance analysis and

painful enough, but when it’s with

improvement, since one of our

something millions of people are

goals was to provide a smooth

already using, it’s absolutely heart-

experience while zooming, panning

wrenching. For example, nearly

or page-flipping. The performance

every single test subject tried using

is measured by monitoring the

our current looking glass icon

frame rates during animations,

to zoom in instead of its actual

based on all of the new version’s

purpose — in-publication search.

traffic. Our dashboard displays the numbers on a timeline, grouped by

Could a handful of users possibly

browsers and devices, labeled with

be representative of the millions

each release. Every time that chart

of people using issuu? When we

changes dramatically, we try to

started talking about these user

understand what our code is doing

tests, it was one of the most asked

and fix the problems.

questions. Well, some things you only need to see a few times to

Yan Hong

know it’s dreadfully broken. Like

Frontend Developer

when we discovered how

experience was building

our testers on mobile devices

within the company as well.

kept unintentionally bringing

Customer Support Associate

up the drawer with related

Greta Baranauskaité may have

publications and weren’t able to

summed it up best when she

close it again.

said, “As a company, we aren’t ever standing still. We create,

As painful as it is to see

respond to our customers

someone on the other side of

problems and work hard to

the screen struggle, it’s equally

make issuu a better place for

rewarding to see when person


The team was set up with people having different experience, skill sets and personalities. Some had an artisan mindset, others had a science mindset and still others had a philosophical mindset. The one similarity was that everyone who joined was highly motivated. —Søren D. Thomsen, Director of Engineering after person successfully uses

Leading up to our November

your product without friction.

launch, we continued to

When users don’t even notice

release to new sets of audiences

the thing you worked so hard

and talked to a wide range

on and only see the content

of publishers and readers.

they came to read, you know

Their positive reaction to the

you’ve succeeded. For every gut-

new reading experience was

punching blow we experienced,

even greater than we could

we were rewarded with new

have imagined. Not only did we

insights that for every iteration

manage to solve all the usability

led to a much better user

issues we wanted, readers were


now able to view publications on issuu with crystal-clear text,

The Final Push

more vibrant colors and twice

With the rush to the finish

as fast as before. We were finally

line, excitement for the new

ready to go live.

Hello World!

Achieving Crystal-Clear Text

We are thrilled to announce

We chose a seemingly simple

the newly redesigned, re-engineered issuu reading experience is here. Reading is faster, smoother and more pleasing to the eye. Discovering new publications couldn’t be easier. And the new experience is much more consistent across every platform, device and web browser. So far readers and publishers are loving the new and improved reading experience, which gives us great pride. All the work we’ve done to date is the foundation we will use to introduce exciting new products and features for readers and publishers everywhere very soon. Until then, happy reading!

solution to display crystal-clear text that’s easier to read — even when zoomed in close. The process involves separating text and graphics into several layers, then drawing them on top of one another. Unfortunately, extracting text isn't as straightforward as it might seem. That’s because instead of containing text, PDFs typically only reference letters in the embedded font. If those letters aren’t at their expected positions, the wrong text is likely to be extracted. Getting it right across millions of publications is a huge and important task, and we left nothing to chance. In addition to dialing in our proprietary extraction software, countless hours have been spent looking through publication after publication to make sure all text was extracted and presented correctly. We also built in an automated process that ensures the outcome is pixel perfect every time. Mads Sejersen Software Engineer

More Juicy Bits Ahead At issuu, we continuously roll out improvements to our products. Even though this new reading experience is a huge change, it’s no different in the sense that we always break larger projects into multiple releases and ship them one at a time. With this project we’ve already rolled out the majority of the biggest changes to the issuu reading experience. Hopefully you’ve already noticed the performance improvements and the experience’s new look and feel. But wait, there’s more! In the coming months we’ll continue to optimize for speed and release other features that will make the reading experience even better on all devices, browsers and screen sizes. This new and improved issuu is the foundation for our future. We’re thrilled you’re along for the ride, and we can’t wait to share what else we have in store.

Meet Peter Assentorp Peter Assentorp has been

Developer at an advertising

Title: Designer

the designer of issuu’s new

agency called Gottlieb & Co.

Office: Copenhagen

reading experience from the

After three years there, I stumbled

Since: July 2014

very beginning. His experience in designing for mobile and his rapid prototyping skills have been crucial to the success of the project.

upon an issuu job opening while searching for something else online. It turns out they were close to removing the job posting because they already had several strong candidates in the queue. I feel very lucky to have landed

What was your path to issuu?

the job.

a digital communications agency

What is your favorite thing about working at issuu?

before pursuing my degree in

I really like the culture, the people

marketing management. Shortly

and the freedom you have here.

after graduation I landed a job as

There is always room to grab a

a Digital Designer and Frontend

coffee or play ping pong to get the

I started my professional career as a junior designer/developer at

Favorite issuu publishers: Sport Magazine

so many smart brains every day.

What has been your biggest challenge this past year?

I feel human here. If I had

Without a doubt designing the

to choose my favorite thing

new issuu from the bottom up.

about working here I’d probably

It definitely wasn’t an easy task

say being able to touch so many

to redesign the core product that

people's lives around the world

has served us well for almost

feels pretty good. It’s sometimes

a decade — and is the reason

crazy to think that what I’m

why we still exists today. It was

designing is going to be seen

especially tough to think many

and used by millions of people

steps ahead while designing to

every month.

ensure that all the pieces would

blood flowing again and it also feels great to be surrounded by

Favorite issuu publishers: frrresh Magazine

fit together in the future since we

What is your favorite issuu core value and how do you live it? favorite. It’s so important for a

What part of the new reading experience are you most proud of?

company of our size. Ownership

I’m mostly proud of how we’ve

to me means taking responsibility

unified our reading experience.

and never assuming it’s someone

In the past we’ve had different

else’s problem. If I see something

interfaces for different browsers

that doesn’t work or doesn’t look

— meaning the interface would

right, I’ll try fixing it myself first.

change depending on whether

If I can’t, then I’ll find a person

or not your browser has Flash.

who has the skills to help me

Even though it's being used

get it done.

by more people all the time, it's

I’d say ownership is probably my

SOFFA Magazine

couldn’t build everything at once.

How do you think readers and publishers are going to react to the new reading experience?

It’s always fun to look back at the designs and prototypes I had in the beginning and see how it has evolved over time into something much simpler and better.

It’s a pretty big change we’ve

—Peter Assentorp, UX Designer

been a technical challenge to maintain. It’s been our goal for more than a year to have one codebase and one interface. I’m really amazed at how the entire company has rallied together to finally reach that milestone.

made to the whole reading experience. Not only have the publisher embeds changed but also the reading experience on issuu.com. Everything has a brand new look and feel, which I think both publishers and readers will love once they start playing around with it. We’ve really spent a lot of time ensuring that they're getting the best possible reading experience.

Be beautifully brainy with us. We’re looking for new issuuees to be part of our next big idea. Join us and help change the future of publishing today.


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