Use a web designer, not a print designer to design your website

Use a web designer, not a print designer to design your website

Many traditional advertising agencies are, by neccessity, now moving into the web design and web development space. This makes perfect business sense considering the large amount of money which is being refunneled from traditional advertising methods into online advertising and marketing.

An unfortunate side-effect of this is that graphic designers with a background in print are now passing themselves off as web designers without doing the requisite study/training/self-education to move to the new medium. The problem with many print designers is they do not understand the intricacies of working within web browsers. They are used to their design being exactly represented when it comes out of the printing press.

In traditional print design you have a set area to work within… let’s say for example an A4 sized brochure. The designer builds their design to a pixel perfect ratio in their design tool of choice. They then proof it, send it to the printer and go to bed happy in the knowledge that what they designed will come out exactly the same when it is printed.

In web design, you are not designing for a known set area. The size (and shape) of monitors, different screen resolutions, the way different monitors render shades of colours, different web browsers, alternate internet devices, user preferences, and many other variables mean that there are going to be many subtle differences in the rendering of a given design.

This is one thing many print-designers often have trouble letting go of when moving to the web – there is no such thing as “pixel perfect” rendering. As web-designers, we understand that each computer (or device) in going to render a design slightly differently. We have let go of the idea that we can dictate exactly how a website will look and instead design for relative consitency.

Another common theme with print designers, is that unless specifically instructed not to, they will invariably design a “splash page” for your website. There are many reasons not to use a splash page, but to a print designer, a website is an electronic brochure and all brochures need a cover page! It is often difficult to convince the designer of the redundancy of what may have taken over 50% of their time in the design process!

Other issues with print-designed websites that crop up frequently are: the use of non-standard widgets, extensive use of obscure fonts which can only be rendered in a browser using images or complex font-replacement techniques, excessive use of eye-candy such as drop-shadows etc.

These devices all have their place in web-design, but excessive application of them in a flat design, makes the task of coding them into HTML templates that much more difficult and time consuming and opens up more opportunity for cross-browser compatibility problems.

It makes more sense to employ a web designer who is knowledgable and experienced in design for the web to perform the design work for your web project. A web designer is thinking about browsers and screens right from the first pixel. A clever web-designer will start the design in Photoshop but will very quickly move into the browser where design considerations such as rollovers, visual animations, user interactions and other web-specific design elements can be incorporated into the design process.

It just makes sense to use a web-designer to design your website!


These are all very generalised claims and of course there are many print designers who have successfully made the switch to web and have come to understand and accept the different approaches required when designing for the web as opposed to print.

However, over the years we have experienced the situation where we are supplied with designs from print-designers for translation to the web and the experience has often been frustrating for both us, and the designers, who get upset when any element of their design is not represented pixel-perfectly in the browser.