Posted by: AG | May 23, 2009

How to convert printed material for the web

If you’re like many established businesses that have been around for many years, you no doubt have printed materials that you’ve considered putting on a web site.  This material might include brochures, catalogs, fliers, order forms, contract forms, photos, and more.  So whether you already have a web site or would like to create one using some of this material, there will be some basic issues to consider.




The first non-design, but practical, question to ask yourself is whether privacy is a factor.  Once you place any information about your business on the web, there is a chance that you’ll be reaching people whom you’d rather not be able to see the information.  Obviously, competitors and those planning a similar business to yours, either close or far away, can get easy access to your marketing and operations.  Maybe too easy. 


If you’re a car dealer, for instance, it’s unlikely that anyone from a competitor across the street would casually walk over and start picking up your printed literature and forms.  With the web, whatever you put up there can be viewed and analyzed.  Sometimes even copied.  And don’t forget that password protection is not foolproof.  All it takes is one employee, or repairman, with access to your network passwords, and the information can travel anywhere and open up your private business details to unwanted eyes.




Many companies have created finely designed literature using type styles with creative fonts and in many sizes.  Sometimes the layout was done in a way that the words printed on paper were designed to enhance the products discussed, such as with over-printing, unique copyfitting, unusual spacing between lines or words, etc.  Therefore, you’ll need to consider how important the elegance of your design and printed effects are to the value of your product or service.


The reason for that concern is because design typography for the web is extremely limited compared to print.  You’ll have no way of knowing beforehand what kind of display set-up your readers will be using when they visit your web pages.  Today’s monitors give the user many choices on display size for the screen which could distort your page and make it difficult to read.  Font sizes that are fine on your computer may become too small, and sometimes unreadable, on the visitors. 


 And of course the font itself – the type style – can look good or terrible on different computers.  That’s why you’ll see so few creative type styles used on the web – it’s not worth the effort.  In fact, that the reason Adobe’s Acrobat program was created – it allows you to more accurately reproduce your printed text.




You should prepare yourself to make major changes to the layout of the printed material in order to have it look decent on a web site.  Open any typical magazine page and you’ll understand that the layout of material, including the text, on a printed page is practically limitless.  The designer has almost infinite ways to placing photos, illustrations, text, and using colors, on the printed page when compared to the web page.  One simple example of this limitation is the number of words.  Designers recommend that a typical web page should have about one third the number of words as a typical magazine page.  True, many web sites try to break this rule by having extra long pages that require scrolling, but that method is not recommended for web sites since pages become unwieldy and harder to read.




On a printed page, photos and illustrations can likewise be used in many more ways than the web page allows.  First of all, the resolution of a screen image is only 72 dots per inch, verses a possible 300 dpi for the printed page.  Therefore, the detail and clarity of the printed photo is much greater on paper.  The layout of images on the printed page also give the designer more flexibility for placement.  Photos can be superimposed on top of one another with semi-transparent screens, for instance.  Words can be placed on top of photos more easily and can also have transparent effects which will not depend on the viewers display settings.  And again, the type styles used are limitless on the printed page as opposed to a safe choice of only a handful for the web page.


In a forthcoming article, I’ll discuss some more key differences to be aware of before converting your printed materials to your web site. 


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