Designing for newspapers and the Web

I was invited to give a lecture on graphic design for a group of students from a nearby university. These students are actually members of their school paper’s graphic design team, so obviously, the focus of the talk was for print. However, they also wanted to know the main difference in web and newspaper design.

Although the difference of the medium used is pretty obvious (newspaper on paper, web design on the internet), the layout factor is where people usually make the mistake on. There are very few who try to use a made-for-web layout for a newspaper layout (my god, is there an idiot who does?). But the other way around, it’s not that uncommon.

Maybe it’s just sheer dumb luck, but the past few days I’ve been talking to clients who insist on using a newspaper-type of layout. Actually, even the students’ web version of their newspaper is practicing the very same mistake. I’m not talking about the “newspaper web version” here, but the newspaper layout printed on paper. Newspaper layout, as in, paragraphs on one column flowing to the next one beside it. Although this is easily accomplished using CSS, do you honestly think that your site’s readers will enjoy scrolling all the way down and then scrolling their browser up again just to read the continuation of the paragraph? Aside from it can be incredibly annoying, it’s irritating to the eyes too.

I don’t see anything wrong doing that with links or any of those “short” stuff, as long as the bottom part of the first column isn’t totally dependent on the succeeding column. It isn’t as irritating—doesn’t affect readability and content flow that much.

I’ve encountered quite a lot of clients who assumed that a print-type of layout can be applicable to a web version. The ones who usually request this are those who aren’t you’d call “tech-savvy”. They are usually the ones who rarely go online. Hence, it’s part of your job as a designer to explain to them the disadvantages of using a made-for-newspaper layout. You know better, so it’s only fitting that you tell them these implications instead of just holding your tongue and thinking at the back of your mind what an idiot he is.

I have never really encountered this type of problem with my clients abroad (usually, I get this issue with local clients), but I can’t know for sure if designers abroad experience the same thing, for the simple reason that I’m based here in the Philippines. There are economic factors (which I really don’t want to go into) that makes it possible for not everyone in our country can get access to the internet and thereby be as tech-savvy.

But then, if you get a client who absolutely refuse to listen to your sound reasoning (happens too, you know)… Then I would suggest for you to just get on with it and make a mental note not to include it on your portfolio and bring yourself shame 😛

Enrolling in an online program for web design can be a learning experience for many.

2 Replies to “Designing for newspapers and the Web”

  1. i agree with you since not everyone over there has an access to the internet so a lot of people are still using the old ways to publish articles on newpaper and on the web. there’s a big difference on how you lay out on where they will end up printed, either on the web or print. there’s a big difference on setting up an article on the web or print especially the layout. also u can’t use CSS for print and it’s only applicable for web

  2. I totally agree with you, Gail.

    Having worked in both print and web design area before, I know what you’ve gone through.

    In my opinion, some design principles and artistic skills are transferrable. While some specific industry practices are immutable.

    For example, take the body text of typography . In traditional printing, serif fonts are easier to read. Yet on-screen, serif fonts are better. This is due to the computer’s rendering.

    An artistic eye is a gift not too many people have. Artists and Designers then are burdened with the addtional workload of explaining the nuances on the subtlety of why somethings feels right and something are best left out.

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