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Print Designers: Welcome to the Web

August 22nd, 2007 - by Brett Derricott - Salt Lake City, Utah

At Agency Fusion we frequently get to work with designers who are experienced in print but are cautiously venturing into the world of Web design. Because the Web is an entirely different medium from print, it can cause some anxiety and frustration at first.

One of the main sources of frustration for designers new to the Web seems to be based upon expectation. Designers who expect the Web to yield the same results as print are typically disappointed. Once a designer embraces the differences between Web and print, though, the anxiety and frustration seem to melt away.

It’s important to note that some of the differences end up being advantages in favor of the Web…they aren’t all bad differences!

Having said that, here are a few of the differences loosely categorized by whether they are likely to be viewed as favorable or frustrating.

Great Things about the Web

  1. Personalized Presentation
    Even though print work allows for some personalization of the message with on-demand or variable data printing, the Web allows for user-driven personalization of both the information and the way it is presented. For example, a user with less-than-perfect eyesight can increase the font size on a website to make the text easier to read or choose to view the website on a variety of devices. With print, the user has no ability to customize the experience in this way.
  2. Easier Edits
    Websites are easier to update than printed brochures. If a typo is discovered on a live website, it’s much easier and cheaper to fix than a typo discovered in a direct mail piece that has already been printed. Sadly this does occasionally result in carelessness on the part of content creators.
  3. Dynamic Documents
    Because they can be edited fairly easily and at any time, websites are more like dynamic or living documents that can be continually refined and improve as new information becomes available. With proper attention, a website need not become out of date and end up in the trash can.

Things You May Find Frustrating

  1. Font Frustrations
    Print designers are used to having pixel-precision control over their type. On the web, differences in operating systems and browsers can yield variations in font presentations. Additionally, being restricted to web-safe fonts can feel rather limiting at first.
  2. Browser Bedlam
    Variations in how the browser manufacturers interpret and implement web standards (or don’t implement them in some cases) means getting pixel-precise results across every browser is an expensive endeavor. To some degree, minor variations across browsers are acceptable to experienced Web designers as long as the integrity of the design is preserved although with sufficient effort most variations can be addressed.
  3. Environment Exceptions
    The fact that a design is being displayed in a browser window instead of on paper results in some issues that at first perplex many print designers. Not all browser windows are set at the same width and height nor do they all display a page in the same resolution. Additionally, content length is usually variable from page to page and may require vertical scrolling to accommodate everything. This requires designers to think in less “fixed” terms when creating a design. The resulting website is much more fluid and dynamic than a print piece and requires the designer to embrace this fluidity.

For More Information

A very well-written and helpful article on this subject can be found at the Subtraction website. I highly recommend this article to anyone interested in moving from print to Web design.

What are your thoughts? What do you find frustrating about designing for the Web? What do you like about it when compared to the print world?