One of the costliest mistakes companies make when creating their web sites is hiring graphic designers who specialise in print design. Many print designers believe that if they can learn HTML, they can easily transfer their “vision” from the printed page to a web site, thus having a special advantage in designing for the web.
Print design specialists tend to make one profound mistake: using print layouts and print marketing strategies to design and market a web site.
The fact is that any successful web design needs far more than a print designer who’s learned HTML. It requires a new paradigm of thinking about design itself — what we call “Achieving the Web Design Mind.” While there are many examples than can be made with this, here’s a summary of how a print designer and a web design specialist differ in their approaches to putting together a web site.
The Print Design Mind makes the art the priority. Print designers tend to equate a site’s worth with how stylistic it looks or how many special design features it has — animations, sounds, frames, special plug-ins, etc. Print designers rely on WYSIWYG programs (like Front Page) to mimic the original print pieces to the web as closely as possible. Little consideration is given to the hardware and software variations and limitations of their audience. Visitors, search engines and directories are all expected conform to the print designer’s personal whim. The Print Design Mind thinks, “Look how good I am.”
The Web Design Mind makes the content the priority. The artwork compliments the content and directs the visitor to it, but it does not overwhelm it. Effective web site design is dedicated to getting people the information they want in a simple way, rather than trying to distract them with cool effects. Web sites created by the Web Design Mind don’t rely on anything extraneous (e.g., special plug-ins) to get the message across. Everything serves a practical purpose — to make the visitor work as little as possible in getting what they want. The Web Design Mind thinks, “Look what good I can do for your customers.”
For a print designer to achieve the Web Design Mind, they must UNLEARN many of the things print design has taught them about how to reach a target audience. We recommend starting off with training from a professional web designer, or at least hiring a professional web designer to create template pages for your web site.
Because when you get to the heart of it, the web is really not about art. Web site design is about providing information and making money. All of the artwork on a web site should be geared toward providing information about a product and/or service, and it should help your site’s visitors find the very information they are searching for as quickly and as easily as possible. The most successful web sites may not look all that visually stunning for an artist’s portfolio, but it is not a web site designer’s job to create a stunning portfolio. It is a web site designer’s job to create an effective web site design for your target audience.