Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Designing for Print vs. Online

Audiences read printed materials and online websites differently. According to Nielsen (1997), people do not read word by word on web pages, but they scan. Nielsen (2006) also added that people read web content in an F-shaped pattern - where F stands for Fast.

Heatmaps from user eyetracking studies of three websites. The areas where users looked the most are colored red; the yellow areas indicate fewer views, followed by the least-viewed blue areas. Gray areas didn't attract any fixations. [Nielsen, 2006]

Hence, designing and writing for print and online are different. On websites, the first two paragraphs must state the most important information (Nielsen, 2006). In other words, inverted pyramid format is used. Radshaw (2003) opined that web content should have 50% of the word count of its paper equivalent. Print has a huge canvas that designers can play with, so word limit is not important (Nielsen, 1999).

Websites should contain more subheads and bullet points if compared to prints. Besides, web design should be simple, clear, consistent, appropriate, appealing and usable.

This is an example of a bad web design because there are too many links and the image is too small. Besides, capital letters and underlined words were overused.

On the other hand, this blog has a good design because the layout is simple, appealing and usable.


Nielsen, J 1997, How Users Read on the Web,, viewed on 17 November 2009,

Nielsen, J 1999, Differences Between Web Design and Print Design,, viewed on 17 November 2009,

Nielsen, J 2006, F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content,, viewed on 17 November 2009,

Radshaw, K 2003, Web Writing vs. Print Writing,, viewed on 17 November 2009,

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