Designing for print media versus designing for the web can be a completely different experience. To better understand these differences, the two can be compared in major topic areas:

Audience

When beginning a project, it is important to think about the experience of your audience, which differs greatly between print and web design. At the most basic level, the web is interactive and print pieces are usually not.

In print, you are trying to get your audience to stay on a page long enough to get a marketing message across. You are often faced with a limited area in which to achieve this, such as a one-page magazine ad. In some cases, you are trying to catch their attention and have them dive deeper into your product, as with a book cover or the first page of a brochure. One of the benefits of print design is that you are dealing with a physical product, so physical properties such as texture and shape can help you achieve your design goals. As an example, paper companies will take out magazine ads printed on their own paper, allowing the audience to feel the weight and texture of their product.

On the web, you are generally trying to keep your audience on a specific website for as long as possible. The amount of pages to work with can be unlimited, so you ‘tease’ the audience with snippets of content to entice them into clicking further into your site.

Layout

Both print and web design require clear and effective layout. In both, the overall goal is the same…use elements of design (shapes, lines, colors, type, etc) to present content to your audience.

The differences start in the available space to create your design:

In print:

  • Your space is generally measured in millimeters.
  • You can be dealing with anything from a business card to a highway billboard.
  • You know the space allowed from the start and that your finished product will look the same to everyone who sees it.
  • You must have bleed and safety areas to guarantee print results (learn more about this in the “printing process” section of this site).

On the web:

  • You are measuring your space in pixels.
  • You are faced with a challenge…designing your sites to look the best on all size monitors and at all monitor resolutions.
  • A consistent design, with consistent navigation (always in the same place) is key to keeping people on your site.