Designing for the web and designing for print are, of course, two very different animals, but not as different as you might think. Websites have a lot in common with magazines in the way they structure information on a page: leading with attention grabbing headlines, using boxes and color to call out important information, even organizing content into sections and pages. Those annoying subscription cards that fall out of magazines are certainly the paper equivalent of pop-up ads.
The differences mostly have to do with formatting. With a print piece, you know exactly the size and shape of the page, and you can completely control where everything appears and it what order. Websites are by nature more fluid; adjustments need to be made for different browsers and mobile devices, and viewers have more control over small details like font sizes, but you still have a fair amount of control over where content appears on your web page, the size of the images, font styles, and how the pages break up.
I recently completed formatting an ebook for the Amazon Kindle. The ebook format is like a bucket of fluid content, which the reader software pours into pages – what appears on each individual page depends entirely on the screen size and the reader’s choices of font style and size. Kindle users even have a small amount of control over the font and background colors. The format doesn’t really give the designer any control at all over font styles, colors, image placement… It was very difficult to even control where page breaks occur, which was essential for my project, a book of photographs.
In the end, creating a book for the Kindle was an exercise in patience and compromise. With ebooks, content really is king, to the point that you are forced to evaluate your content and the order it is presented in. Since you can’t rely on headlines, boxes and color to call attention to the important information, you have to make sure all your content is important.
There might be a lesson to be learned there, one that could be applied to websites and even print pieces as well.