Re: Screen Vs. Print

Subject: Re: Screen Vs. Print
From: Jeff Hanvey <techwriter -at- jewahe -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 06:22:00 -0800 (PST)


--- "Radwa Darwish" <radwa -dot- darwish -at- microtech -dot- com -dot- eg> wrote:
>Dear Whirlers,
>I need to list all differences between writing for screen and writing for
>print, in content and layout.


Writing for the screen is much more exacting that writing for print. Writing and design are intricately linked, and they include:

1. Because people tend not to read every word on a webpage, but instead,
scan it to find useful information:

-Adopt the academic journal approach and use an abstract. Of course, this summary should be much shorter and more exact about what the reader should find in the document.
-Use good document layout: headings, lists, and other visual cues to information.

-Write in short chunks. Be extremely concise, using frequent paragraph and page breaks. One major issue that is still hotly debated is the issue of scrolling: There are two schools of thought on this issue:

*No-scrolling school. Gear the design to the average monitor size (this is probably still 15 inches, but you could get away with designing for a seventeen-inch monitor). All information, then, is placed on this single screen.
*Okay-to-scroll school. Gear the design to 3 or 4 "screens" (the vertical size of the monitor).

Both schools recognize that there is a limit - web users don't read everything, and won't have the patience to scroll for long.

-The information in those chunks should be simple and concise. Get to the point quickly.

2. Be kind to the eyes. Staring at a screen to read is difficult, so keep the text and background sharply contrasted.

-Don't use a heavy or intricate background image.
-Use conservative colors that actually contrast (don't, for example, use purple text on a blue background).
-Use a background color that cuts the intense glare from the solid white as in page design.

3. Provide clues to location within the document. Frequent page breaks means that it's easier for the reader to get lost.

-Design a solid navigational
system that lets the user know exactly where s/he is
-Use something similar
to the "bread crumb" idea, as just implemented on the techwr-l site.
-Don't go overboard - users aren't too fond of constantly clicking, and
the loading time can affect their comprehension. Articles shouldn't go beyond 2 or 3 pages deep.

4. Design for fast loading. Like I said before, the loading time can affect comprehension (as well as patience), so

-Don't use large graphics - and don't use a whole lot of smaller graphics, either.
-Don't use complex tables and layout techniques.
-Use scripts conservatively.
-Reuse items (once their in the browser's cache, they load much faster).

Of course, if you're designing for an internal network, some of the tips won't apply.

5. Test your design in both Netscape and IE, as well as on a variety of
machines. Don't want any surprises, after all.

HTH!
JWH

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