Designing for Web: Web vs Print

Designing for web and designing for print share many similarities (when I refer to print, I am referring to things like flyers, posters, pamphlets, and the like. Fine art is a different matter). Both follow the elements and principles of art (unity, space, color, value, movement, flow, and so on) as well as the elements and principles of design (typography, simplicity, hierarchy, information, focus, aesthetics, and so on).

Web vs Print

The main difference between designing for the web and designing in print is user interaction.

In print, you usually only need to design one page and draw the user's attention to what is important. In web, you need to design a whole site and not only draw the user's attention, but get them to stay and peruse your website. For example, compare an event poster and a webpage. The poster is a single, stand-alone piece of paper that should convey all information necessary for an event in a winsome, pleasing way. The webpage, on the other hand, is not isolated but belongs to an entire website. The webpage not only has to convey all information relevant to its purpose but has to get the user to be interested enough to peruse the website. The poster is static and its viewer passive, but the webpage is dynamic and interacts with its user.

This is the biggest jump for designers moving from print to web design. One has to take into account how the webpage will work. Because webpages are dynamic, one has different ways to draw attention to different areas of the webpage (through a rotating banner, changing colors for links and buttons, mouseovers and clicking, and so on). The designer also has to consider how the webpages are linked together (navigation bars, footers, sidebars, what sites link to what, and so on) and how to make the webpages look like they belong together even though they display different information. This involves a shift in mindset from a focusing on a single page into viewing the collection of pages as a whole.

This difference between web and print, though daunting at first, is easily bridged with good resources for web design and usability. The good news is that there are a lot of good resources out there! A free online course on web aesthetics can be found here and information on usability can be found here.

posted by Lydia Chang