Contrary to the beliefs of some, advertising for web and print are very different. Converting print ads for use on the web is very tricky. What has been very successful on paper may have no impact at all on the screen. When I am asked “How do I convert my print ads to web?” my answer is simple: don’t! Web and print are so vastly different that I believe you should never build your web pages based on a print ad.
There are certain rules that web design must follow that simply don’t apply to print. One of my colleagues, Tim Pattison, broke these rules down very concisely recently:
<li>Designing within the constraints of (X)HTML</li>
These are the four rules that web design must follow. I will explain these rules in detail later. For now though we need to talk about copywriting. As I said in my last newsletter Web Site Templates and Their Benefits, the most important part of your website is content. Search engines and disabled users don’t care how your site looks. They only care about the information your site presents. The reason I’m coming back to this is to explain that writing web copy is an entirely different ball game from writing print copy. Quite possibly the best resource for writing web copy is the book “Web Copy That Sells” by Maria Veloso. It outlines the differences between the two and gives great techniques to writing for the web. I will be revisiting this topic in my newsletters to come, so make sure you visit often.
The four rules exclusive to web design: usability, browser compatibility, design within the constraints of (x)html, and accessibility, are the four horsemen of doom for the uneducated, inexperienced designer. They are some of the most overlooked aspects of web design, and yet some of the most important.
<li>Usability: Unlike print ads, web sites are interactive. Users must be able to easily find their way around, and they need a clear path to the information they are trying to find. If you are selling a product, there needs to be a clear, concise, distraction free path from the home page all the way to the check out page. </li>
<li>Browser compatibility: In a perfect world you could design your web site once and it would look perfect and stay perfect in all browsers. Unfortunately, we live in the real world where some browsers support a set of standards and others simply don’t. Actually, the most popular browser in the world has for years lived by their own rules. While MS Internet Explorer still holds the majority of the market share, Mozzilla, Netscape, and Opera have acquired a considerable percentage of the browser market. In fact, it’s high enough of a percentage to make Microsoft revise their plans to release IE 7.0. While competition is healthy, it makes for headaches for web designers. It is not uncommon to have your site looking perfect in one browser only to find that your entire design explodes when viewed with another.</li>
<li>Designing within the constraints of (x)html: When you lay out a print ad, you place the images where they belong on the page, draw out any shapes, lay out the colors, and place the text. Then you print it out and make copies. Every copy you hand out looks exactly the same, and there’s nothing magic about the way things stay on the page. In web design, everything is held in place by code. You could easily have a four to one ratio of code to content. If you are not familiar with the coding involved in keeping your site looking like it’s supposed to, it can be very frustrating laying out your design.</li>
<li>Accessibility: Back to our perfect world – not only would browsers be perfect, but all our viewers would look through the same eyes. Unfortunately, some people aren’t blessed with good eyesight or motor skills like you and I. We need to consider that for those who have disabilities, a poorly laid out website can be completely useless. You could ignore that audience, but you would be doing yourself a disservice. And let’s not forget, our biggest and most important group of users is completely blind: search engine spiders. They read your website the same way a blind person does. If the layout of your site isn’t logical, a spider may leave and not bother coming back for a long time.</li>
Considering these things, I think it is always best to design your web site separate from your print advertising. Always write fresh copy for the web, and remember that it’s not enough to write great copy once. You need to update your site regularly to keep the search engines interested.
About the Author
J Hancock is the president and founder of HighTide Web Services. We are proud to be a fast growing, California based web services firm, offering high quality web site templates from some of the best designers out there, as well as excellent and affordable web hösting