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Advice versus Control - Web Design is Not Print Design

Learn to Relax Your Design Requirements

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The Web is Not Print

Many Web designers come to the Web with a print background. Either they were print designers, or they are just used to the control that a print world gives. When you print something, it provides permanence and stability. You don't have this on the Web.

The problem is, that it's easy to forget. When you build your Web page and test it in your browser, you get it looking exactly how you want it to look. But then you test it in a different browser, and it looks different. And if you move to a different platform, it will look differently again.

As you're a designer, you'll need to work with customers. You will be doing them and yourself a disservice if you don't explain the difference between print and the Web. Especially if you bring your portfolio as print outs. This is a common problem, where the customer expects the printout to represent exactly what the page will look like.

What To Do?

Working with Customers

  • Printouts as a Portfolio
    It is always important to have a portfolio, but remember that the Web is not print, and bringing a print out is not a strong representation of your Web site design skills.
  • Setting Expectations
    Be up-front with your customers. If they want their page to have very specific layout, font, and design elements, be sure to explain the tradeoffs such as download speed and maintenance before simply building them a completely graphical page.
  • Know what your customer uses
    If you're a big Netscape on the Mac fan, and your client only uses Internet Explorer for Windows, you should keep this in mind in your designs. Your page could look very different to them.

Design Techniques

  • Know your audience
    Know the characteristics of the audience of the site you're building. If they are propellor-heads, they might browse in Unix on a 21 inch monitor. Or if they are more conservative they might have a 12 inch monitor running Internet Explorer 3. If you design a site that suits your audience, your customer won't be complaining to you later.
  • Test test test
    Test your designs in every browser and OS combination that you can get your hands on. Emulators work if you have no other choice, but there is no substitute for hands on experience.
  • Don't forget resolution
    Browsers and OS are important, but if your readers and customers are browsing on a smaller screen than you design on, they could be unpleasantly surprised.

The Web is Not Print

While it is possible, with CSS, to get very precise layouts, but it will never be as precise as print. If you can remember that as you're designing your Web pages, you'll save yourself a lot of stress.

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