I have recently taken on the challenge of building a couple of websites, both designed by print designers. Whilst these guys and gals are clearly very talented at print design it is a completely different discipline to web design.
Print Design is Static
In simple terms, with print design nothing moves. Everything is placed on a page and is completely static, forever, it always appears as it was laid out.
Colours can be controlled too. The print designer knows what the machine is going to produce, the exact shade of colour that it will print. Colours never look the same in print as they do on the web. Moreover colours can look completely different from screen to screen. For example Microsoft Windows tend to put a blue tint over everything, whereas Apple claim absolute natural daylight.
Web Design Everything Moves
In responsive web design everything moves, it’s completely fluid. Elements are placed on a web page and they shrink and move about according to the size of the screen the visitors is using. There is no consistent page size. A print designer knows before she starts exactly what the page size will be but web designers never know what screen size the visitor will want to use.
To a point it’s possible to make exact placements on large screens and desktops but even this needs to move when we get down to a laptop. So expecting the leading image will always be precisely placed alongside the text as the screen size changes is too big an ask. Complaining when your four column design doesn’t display on a laptop like it does on a great big iMac is frankly ridiculous.
Images will resize to fit the screen but text can’t shrink along with them, otherwise it would become unreadable. So the text overlaying an image on a desktop screen might look great but I could bet my last pound that it won’t work on a mobile.
Becoming a web designer
I guess the moral of the story is that web designers are so called for a reason. They understand what is required to optimise a website for today’s web. Not just large screens but all screens.
58% of web traffic in 2019 comes from mobile and that percentage is only going to grow.
Focus on a beautiful layout yes of course but make sure it is flexible. If an element doesn’t work on a screen size it has to move about and that is all there is to it.
Print designers are talented but it is an exact science. They almost need to change the way they have worked for years and accept that everything will not be exactly placed, not an easy thing to do. Sometimes that involves going as far as changing the way they think, going against everything that is ingrained, going against structured design.
Print designers can definitely become web designers it just means learning some new skills. Whether web designers could become print designers, well that’s a different matter altogether!