Roy Gilbert

What Newspapers Can Teach Us About Web Design

Cover of The New York Times, 21 July, 1969

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It’s easy to get caught up in the latest trends in web design. Web technology is constantly improving, and today developers have a formidable range of features at their disposal . This makes for a forward-thinking, innovative space — as it should — but also one at risk of being unrooted. Every art has its ancient masters. In the case of websites, it’s newspapers.

When you dig into the basic principles of news design, overlaps with the web are frequent and oftentimes indistinguishable. Many web design best practices can be traced directly back to news design. When it comes down to it, websites are made for users to engage with, and hopefully return to. Newspapers have been playing that game for centuries, and winning.

Anyone with even a passing interest in web design stands to benefit from knowing how news design works, and why it works. This piece will examine several tenets of newspaper design and show their connection to best practice online. At the core of that connection is a principle childlike in its simplicity, one newspaper and web designers alike would do well to remember. Hold The Home Page

Newspapers have been around since the 17th century. They’ve worked hard for their rules, and because their content changes daily the rules have to be abstract. Ninety-five percent of what we see in any given newspaper will not be there the next day. It is what don’t see that is essential for wrangling the contents of newspapers into shape.

This framework […]

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