Rainer Heckmann, the general manager of Aquafadas, nods to the fact that Adobe InDesign is the industry standard creative software for digital publishers. But while it represents the near-universal platform for design, he says, Adobe's digital publishing capabilities leave a lot to be desired. Heckmann points to the complexity of adding interactivity and other tablet-, smartphone-, and app-optimized assets to a publication using Adobe's own tools. Aquafadas, as a company, sought to bring more ease, clarity, and intuitiveness to the process of adding interactivity.
"When you're adding interactivity to a publication using Aquafadas within InDesign, you're working from a single palette of tools-everything is right there in front of you," Heckmann says. "You can't miss anything."
Aquafadas's software provides 23 features that create a broad spectrum of interactive elements in a publication: slideshows, embedded video, embedded sound, 360-degree image views, and more. With no coding experience required, there's a very small learning curve for designers who are already familiar with InDesign.
As intuitive as Aquafadas hopes that its tools will be, it nevertheless offers a comprehensive selection of video tutorials to train designers in its tools. "But when I speak with designers," Heckmann says, "they say that it takes no more than a few hours to get familiar with the tools and the capabilities."
Heckmann points to three additional components of Aquafadas' digitial publishing software-which all come into play after the interactive publication has been designed-that are essential to any digital publisher's distribution and publication process.
The first is called AVE AppFactory, which creates files that are designed to be used as apps, which can then be submitted to, and sold on, the Apple App Store and other app marketplaces. The second publishing tool is a previewer, called myKiosk, which allows the app to be previewed once it's been created. (This adds a capability that would otherwise not be possible using Adobe's tools within InDesign alone.) And third, Aquafadas provides a publisher portal that enables publishers to submit their apps to the Apple App Store and other application marketplaces to make them available for download and consumption.
"Aquafadas allows publishers like Design Central to create rich and engaging digital publications using many of the tools they already utilize in their editorial process, and then publish [them] everywhere they want [them] to be published. With a single source file, you can reach your entire audience," Heckmann says.
Design Central has found the integration of Aquafadas software into its editorial process to be seamless and painless. In the months since it first began creating custom interactive publications, Design Central has been pleased with the results. The company received positive feedback from both its internal and external clients, and it is eager to continue creating richer and more interactive digital publications using the software.
"Basically, Aquafadas offers the tools to do anything you can think of in terms of interactivity," Design Central's Nicastro says.
He also points to the high level of technical support that Aquafadas makes available to its customers.
"The one-on-one approach to tech support is something that I'm extremely grateful for," he says. "At my fingertips, I have a tech support person to answer any question I might have. It's a really good piece of the puzzle, especially as [it] relates to the app submission process, which is the newest part of the publication process for us."
Aquafadas' a la carte pricing model-customers use the interactive design tools for free and then pay per titles they publish-is one that makes it easy for Design Central to price out its projects to clients.
"Because it's a flat-rate approach, we can let our potential clients know exactly what the cost of their project will be right up front," Nicastro says. And on the subject of the competitiveness of Aquafadas rates, he continues, "App developers cost a lot of money. We're able to use this as a solution for a decent rate, and it's a tool we're already used to using."
Design Central now has three or four of its digital publication projects that it is looking to expand as a result of its success with Aquafadas' software. Steve Raia, group creative director at Design Central, says that the interactive features that his company's design staff have now mastered offer the potential to turn a wide variety of publications into engaging, interactive experiences-ranging from media kits to sell sheets to white papers.
"Interactivity makes them interesting," Raia says, "which isn't necessarily something we'd have been able to say before."