It’s easy to describe a print catalog since they’ve been in existence since at least the days of Tiffany’s Blue Book in 1845. But describing its digital sibling is difficult, not just because it is relatively recent. First of all, the form of a digital catalog varies widely.
Early on, digital catalogs were digital facsimiles of their printed counterparts (think PDFs or fixed-format eBooks), with hyperlinks to purchase the items. On larger screen devices such as tablets, these can be a positive user experience, much as many digital magazines have become. But on smartphones, print facsimiles are less than ideal. For example, users typically do not enjoy pinch-zooming to see more details or to access a link.
A more effective solution for devices of all sizes is a fully responsive display of the retailer’s products and special offers. Each element dynamically assumes the size and proportions suitable to a device’s screen size and user navigation habits. This responsiveness is, of course, much easier said than done. Effective, responsive web design can be anything but “automatic” and is complicated by the retailer’s need to maintain brand and content design parity with a catalog’s printed counterpart.