The Difference Between Print And Web Design

Through my line of work in the Web industry I have largely expanded my knowledge on what I already know about design. It is obvious that web differs from print design, but there are so many important factors we do not take into account when designing for each medium. In short, the following guidelines should make this variance clearer.



One of the main variations between print and web design is the file size and pixel quality. In web design all images must be optimized for web at 72dpi (dots per inch) so that it can load for your audience as quickly as possible. Whereas in print design there is a higher demand for quality and resolution needs to be set at 300dpi and above so it appears crystal clear when printed. Due to the higher pixel quality, a much larger file size is created and can quite often reach the gigabyte mark, especially when creating multiple page documents.



Print design is lenient when it comes to the placement of elements on a page; the only navigation necessary is to turn pages. Web design can be quite restricting. Elements need to be designed within a grid system and you are not just designing for your monitor’s size, but you must create something that will look good in every monitor size, including smartphones, iPhones and other devices.

It is important for a webpage to avoid horizontal scrolling as it can become disorientating for the user. Most webpages scroll vertically by default. Therefore, navigation needs to use effective hierarchy in order for it to be clear and enticing. The most important information needs to be on the home page and large buttons should be used to guide the user in the right direction.



Interactivity plays an integral part in usability. When designing for web you have to remember this important factor so they can communicate or otherwise interact with the computer system. The trick lies in the use of web interactions to attract users to engage on a page. Some of these include form filling, menu selection, user-contributed notes and language selection.




When designing for print, colours and transparencies can often appear entirely different from on screen to when it’s printed out. To be safe, always get hold of a Pantone Colour Picker and pick colours that way. It’s also almost impossible to pick really bright, neon colours with a traditional printer.

There is an endless colour selection in web design. The colour difference between your mock up and your finished product is almost always the same. The only thing that would affect the colour would be different monitor settings. Therefore, when creating the colour palette for your designs, make sure you select colours that are flexible and can be viewed under different displays and brightness. Extra caution needs to be taken when using gradients and drop shadows as the CSS gradient feature has an incompatibility with most browsers.



Typography is important for initial appeal. However, selecting your favourite typefaces may not work as easy as you thought in web design as each computer or platform varies in typography or font support.

There are many differences between the two mediums that it seems relevant to take different design approaches to utilise their strengths. Yet, clients often request their products in both mediums and in order to keep them happy you need to create something that can be easily translated between the two.