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Online Newspaper Vs. Print Version

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Newspaper designers have a huge canvas to play with. Their designs can be striking and yet intricate and pack much more impact than a web page; especially because the entire double-page spread is in-your-face in a fraction of a second. Wham, here's the news.

The page in the figure is a great example of the possibilities in print: a large, high-resolution map sets the stage for a story about Chile and does double duty as an information graphic for several data nuggets. More data is visualized in smaller graphics around the page. And, of course, there is room for a large amount of text that is set in high-resolution type and nicely integrated with the headlines and graphics in a pleasing over-all layout that allows the eye to move from overview to details in a fraction of a second.

The above image does not do justice to the awards book which is printed in super-high resolution on heavy-duty glossy paper. In the book, it is possible to actually read the body text on the page. For online, I had to squeeze the JPEG quality down quite a bit in order to achieve the required 10-second download time for modem users. Another benefit of print!


Print design is 2-dimensional, with much attention paid to layout. It is obviously possible for the reader to turn the page, but substantial interplay between different spreads is rare. Typically, each view is a design unit created for a fixed size canvas - often a big canvas when designing newspapers or posters.

In contrast, Web design is simultaneously 1-dimensional and N-dimensional.

A web page is fundamentally a scrolling experience for the user as opposed to a canvas experience. A small amount of 2-dimensional layout is possible, but not to the extent of creating a pre-planned experience with a fixed spatial relationship between elements. Users often begin scrolling before all elements have been rendered, and different users will scroll the page in different ways throughout their reading experience.

Precise placement of elements on a web page goes against the nature of HTML and can only be achieved to an approximation for pages that are able to adjust to different window sizes. Thus, 2-dimensional relationships between page elements are less important than 1-dimensional relationships (what's early on the page; what's later on the page).


The N-dimensional aspect of web design follows from the hypertext navigation that is the essence of the Web. Moving around is what the Web is all about. When analyzing the "look-and-feel" of a website, the feel completely dominates the user experience. After all, doing is more memorable and makes a stronger emotional impact than seeing.

In print, navigation mainly consists of page turning: an ultra-simple user interface which is one of the printed medium's great benefits. Because page turning is so limited, it is often not even thought of as a design element. In contrast, hypertext navigation is a major component of web design, requiring decisions like

appearance of links

how to explain where users can go and where each link will lead

visualization of the user's current location

information architecture

Response Time, Resolution, and Canvas Size

Print is immensely superior to the Web in terms of speed, type and image quality, and the size of the visible space. These differences are not fundamental. We will eventually get:

bandwidth fast enough to download a Web page as fast as one can turn the page in a newspaper

screen resolution sharp enough to render type so crisply that reading speed from screens reaches that of paper

huge screens the size of a newspaper spread - in fact, I think that newspaper-sized screens are about the limit where it may not make sense to make screens any larger

For the next ten years or so, the differences will remain and will dictate restrictions on web design: less graphics, smaller graphics, shorter text (since it is unpleasant to read online), less fancy typography (since you don't know what fonts the user has installed), and less ambitious layouts.

Even when we get perfect hardware in ten years, it will continue to be necessary to limit the word count since users are more impatient online and are motivated to move on. It



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