Graphic And Web Design - What's The Difference?

by Don Wismann

You look with pride at your company's literature. The brochures, catalogs,
business cards, and stationery all compliment each other. The logo and
graphics are beautiful! You envision a dynamic new look for the company
Web site. For branding purposes you want to follow the theme developed in
your printed literature.

It is for this reason that some companies turn to the same graphic
designer who created their print literature to develop their Web site.
Though they may have a number of Web sites under their belt, some graphic
designers are not up to the challenge. Why? Many graphic designers
approach Web design in the same manner as they would the printed page.
Paper and the browser window are two different animals. What works on
paper does not always work on the screen.

What are the dynamics that makes the transition to the Web's digital
format so difficult? First, as a general rule, if it doesn't work in
print, it will most certainly be problematic on the Web.

Take for example, knock-out type (light colored text over a dark
background). While the headline of a print ad might be very dramatic in
knock-out type, long paragraphs of knock-out type copy are hard to read on
paper and even harder to read on the Web. The problem is compounded when a
difficult text structure is laid over a textured background. A simple rule
to follow is: If it is hard to read on paper, it will be harder to read on
a screen.

Second, time is a factor that must be taken into consideration. It has
often been said of print advertising that there are just seven seconds to
catch a reader's attention. In that short time, the reader can scan the
ad, the headline, and just enough of the text to determine if they want to
read further. In a magazine ad, all the elements are available to the
reader as soon as the page is turned.

You run the risk of boring or totally losing a prospective client or
customer if a graphic intensive Web page takes forever to load. The
average attention span of an Internet viewer is about 30 seconds. Web
designers need to keep in mind that not everyone has broadband connection
to the World Wide Web. 77% of the world still uses 56k, 33k, and yes, 14k
modems. If loading takes too long the prospect is going to leave before
the page is finished loading no matter how good the graphics.

Yes, you may argue that the customer did chose to go to your Web site -
but that is not a reason to think we can abuse their time. They are not
looking to be impressed. They are looking for information. For that very
reason we need to make it easy for them to find what they want - quickly!
It must be presented in a logical order that doesn't suffer for the sake
of the graphic design.

True, there are many programs that have made the transition from print to
the Web easier. HTML, as advanced as it is, still has limitations. It must
also be remembered that what looks great on one computer monitor does not
necessarily look good on another. A designer that specializes in Web
design is constantly aware of these factors.

This is not to say that a Graphic Designer that specializes in print work
can not design a high quality Web site. But, they can't ignore the
elements of Web design.

Before making the important step of selecting an agency to create your
Internet presence, do your research! Look at the agency's work. Ask
yourself, "Do they follow the rules of Web design?" And, "Do they have a
good track record of building successful sites?" If the answer to both
questions is yes, then the web site they create will likely be a real
boost to your company.

See also "The Psychology of Web Design" by Jake Gorst at

About the Author:
Don Wismann, President and CEO of E-Media Publishing,Ltd