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Print Design vs. Web Design

Similarities and Differences in Print and Web Design

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Although desktop publishing and Web design have a common ancestry, they aren't the same. Yes, there are certain similarities — such as text, graphics, color, page composition, and the need for clear navigation -- but Web design has its own set of challenges and design parameters.

Typography

Typesetting and Font Choices in Print Don't Always Work in Web Design
Typesetting and Font Choices in Print Don't Always Work in Web Design (image © J. Bear)

Writing and reading on-screen differs from print so typography online has its own idiosyncrasies. A font that looks great on paper may be much harder to read on-screen. And unless the font is used in a graphic, there's a strong chance that visitors to your Web page aren't going to all see the same font -- either because they don't have it installed or they use Web browser preferences that override your font choices. Those are just some of the differences between text in print and text on the Web.

Graphics

Graphics Formats for Print Aren't The Same for Web
Graphics Formats for Print Aren't The Same for Web (image © J. Bear)
While TIFF and EPS are the professional graphics standards for print, they won't fly on the Web. You'll need to learn how to properly create and use JPEG, GIF, and PNG images in Web design. Additionally, Web graphics use a lower resolution and may require digital protection.

Color

Color in Web Design is Different from Color in Print
Color in Web Design is Different from Color in Print (image © J. Bear)

Commercial printing processes are typically done in CMYK or uses Pantone spot colors or other print-friendly color specifications. On the Web, color is RGB. And then you'll also need to contend with browser-safe color schemes — maybe. The use of color in typography also differs, in part because of readability differences on-screen.

Navigation

Print and Web Have Different Navigation Needs
Print and Web Have Different Navigation Needs (image © J. Bear)

Although Web pages may use some navigational elements derived from print, such as table of contents, navigating through the interconnected pages of a Web site isn't the same as the usually linear navigation of the pages of a book. Although you can use columns in Web design, they aren't used in the same way as columns of text in, say, a magazine or newspaper.

Page Composition

Page Composition for Print is Static Compared to Web Design Pages
Page Composition for Print is Static Compared to Web Design Pages (image © J. Bear)

In print design, page layouts are static designs. Once it is printed, everyone viewing the page sees the graphics in the same place, the text columns in the same size, and the piece of paper it's printed on doesn't change size or shape each time someone picks up the paper. Web pages are more fluid, more dynamic, and the reader has more control over how they view pages.

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