Designing for online vs. print

The natures of both online and print media have cultivated different habits of consumption in the audiences, and thus different expectations have been formed of the design in both media.

As Parker (2003, p. 270) contends, online reading is usually more exhausting, because of high foreground/background contrast caused by the projected light on the computer screen. Therefore, especially in arranging texts in a screen-based environment, designers should always treat them like visuals, making them look visually appealing and comforting (Bernhardt 1986). This can be done by grouping up related text, and carefully placing the texts so that they can generate a sense of balance (Parker 2003).


Visually appealing layout (Youtube 2008)

Magazine layout (Design Firm 2008)

Magazine layout (Design Firm 2008)

This design approach is also supplemented by online media’s multimodality and hyperlinking feature (Walsh 2006, p. 30). Designers can cut down a lot of texts by supplementing or replacing them with appropriate images and video clips. As well, by linking audiences to different pages, a page can avoid having overflowing texts, and making reading an overly daunting task. For the same reason, designers should also avoid building a multicolumn layout, which is often used in magazine to save space. Just take a look at the two pictures above, and you will know what I mean.

However, as in the case of print media, providing information about the author in online media can boast trust and confidence in the audiences (Nielsen 2005).


Bernhardt, SA 1986, ‘Seeing the text’, College composition and communication, vol. 37, no.1, pp. 66-78.

Nielsen, J 2005, Weblog usability: the top ten design mistakes. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

Parker, RC 2003, ‘Designing document for web distribution’, Looking good in print, Paraglygh Press, Scottsdale.

Walsh, M 2006, ‘The textual shift: examining the reading process with print, visual, and multimodal text, Australian Journal of Languages and Literacy, vol. 29, no. 1, pp.24-37.