Remember Kids, Web != Print

One of the biggest sins you can commit when designing a web site is acting as if you’re designing for print. The web is not print. The elements of design which carry over from print are there, to be sure, but they are extremely non-specific (e.g., spacing of text headings). Computer interfaces are not static, they are much lower resolution than paper, and importantly, people don’t use them the same way. This is part of why nothing’s killed paper publishing yet…

Here’s example number one of what not to do:

2-column newspaper-style layout from The Independent

Usually the painful print legacies have to do with huge images, images instead of text, and that sort of thing. This isn’t one you see every day, but it’s an especially idiotic decision. Does no one at The Independent ever try to read articles on their own site?

You don’t have to scroll a newspaper. Their web site, on the other hand, is impossible to read comfortably. Sometimes you can get away with multiple columns of text—if they are separate content pieces, and if they are far enough apart that the right column doesn’t continuously confuse the reader’s eyes.

OK, end rant.


I wrote a follow up here. Thanks, Misuba.


  1. rick says:

    Expect to see this layout more and more when CSS3 columns are in common use… in about 27 years.

  2. Bjârn says:

    hehe, to their defence they do have an option to make articles single columns, ala… Not that it’s helping them much though. What’s particularily annoying in this example is the scrolling required to read each column. good rant.

  3. Matthew says:

    That’s funny, I had exactly the same thought just last week. Well done!

  4. Rob says:

    Yes, I read this same article a couple of days ago and was similarly annoyed. They could at least put a link at the bottom of the first column that takes you back up to the top of the second. Thanks for the nicely-written confirmation of my own annoyance!

  5. misuba says:

    An example of columns, and indeed a lot of print aping, that I think is working really well in the browser:

  6. Amy Hoy says:

    Misuba, that site is actually really cool. Color me surprised. I like! I’m updating this article with an explanation of why I think that site works while the Independent doesn’t.

    Thanks a bunch for pointing it out. Aside from being a well-executed layout for an ezine, it’s a topic of interest for me πŸ™‚

  7. Bar Letter says:

    I was very dissapointed of this πŸ™

  8. i am not sure as to why πŸ™‚

  9. The problem is my browser πŸ™

  10. The problem is my browser…

  11. Very clear πŸ™

  12. The problem is my browser!

  13. Just thought I’d make a note about a problem πŸ™‚

  14. The content of your show is great, I really enjoy it.

  15. Just thought I’d make a note about a problem!

  16. Oak Mall says:

    Very nice write up πŸ™‚

  17. Well at last catched the problem πŸ™‚

  18. Thanks. Updated appropriately.

  19. […] matter. She asks (and answers) some of the hard questions about usability, including a pair of my own favorite points on the topic. She knows that software is also […]

Hey, why not get a shiny
Freckle Time Tracking