Reading Time: 2 minutes

Web sites are not posters, nor should we design them to be posters. I’ve heard this idea a lot recently, that we should be designing posters instead of web sites. But there’s an important difference here.

Posters are designed to be seen from a DISTANCE. They need to grab the attention of the passer by.

Posters are designed to be an iconic representation of a film, show, event; with a large title and everything else weighted to be of less importance other than key facts, such as star names, dates and locations.

Stop Shouting

We are usually only a matter of inches from the screen, so why do so many sites assault my visual senses and shout at me SO LOUDLY?

Posters are designed to advertise and inform of a very small amount of information. A website is designed to deliver a greater range of information and of course, interactivity via navigation. Posters are not a two-way process, they are flat and lifeless.

A website does not immediately benefit from enormous typography and does not always need to grab the attention. We are already in front of the site, it already has our attention. If we merely want to prioritise one piece of information over another then an H1 does not need to be 500% larger than an H2. Our visitors are not blind. (well, OK some might be).

Our users may well be traveling from site to site, but they do not need such a cheap gimmick to distinguish our particular website from a mass of other posters pasted onto a vast wall as they run for a train.

Long Pages

By making everything enormous we simply create very long pages. We reduce the content to a scroll-able linear experience when it really had no need to be. It would have fitted so easily if only we hadn’t decided to use a 90pt title.

Sometimes when text is beyond a certain size it becomes more difficult for the eyes to quickly scan; the brain has to trace around the whole shape to identify the words. Single words are better in this respect than short sentences, but the choice of font can be equally as impeding.

Why the trend of enormous typography?

Is it simply because we can, now we have better typographic technology at our disposal and can’t control ourselves. Are we just filling space unnecessarily? Or do we think this makes us appear to be better visual designers? Is the copy we are choosing to make enormous, the right copy for the job?

Maybe it’s because we believe the larger the type, the clearer the message becomes? The more our message stands our from the crowd. Or is this merely the same as shouting more loudly in English at the confounded non-English speaker, instead of trying to communicate the information in a more intelligent and clear manner.

But it looks nice

Well fair enough then. I think it can look great too, after all posters often look great. Type can be as beautiful as an image.

I just know that posters and websites are very different mediums and have very different intentions and requirements. We should be careful not to start creating posters with navigation that don’t blend the art forms but rather dilute and confuse everyone.