Let’s start with some easy questions.
- Can you play a video on a brochure or a website?
- Can you click on a link to see a new page on a brochure or a website?
- Can you purchase an item on a brochure or a website?
Of course, the answers are obvious. However, when most people plan a new website, they plan it like it’s a brochure. And if your website is planned like a brochure, it can suffer.
Brochures vs. websites
Brochures and websites are two different media. A brochure is static. The same information and graphics will always appear on the same panels because they’re printed there. It never changes. A website, however, is dynamic. It really exists only as a bunch of programming and code that, when a computer interprets it, displays text and images. That display is interactive, changing based on what a user clicks on or types in. It’s also changeable; altering a little code can change the text, add a graphic, or rework an entire design.
So why do so many people plan a website like a brochure? For example, people put together static images or a design of what they want a website to look like. These images can even be printed on paper. The problem is that these images don’t account for interaction. What happens when someone clicks on a link? How does this slideshow change? How does information show or hide when someone clicks on it? Paper can’t reveal these things.
Additionally, each internet browser handles websites differently. People may use Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer on either PC or Mac. And each one has subtle differences in how it renders (displays) websites. Fortunately, the situation isn’t as bad as it was earlier in the 2000s.
Of course, the bigger challenge today isn’t different internet browsers; it’s different devices. People are viewing and interacting with websites on desktop and notebook computers, on tablets, on smartphones, on gaming consoles, and even on televisions! So many different screen sizes, so many different interactions (tapping the screen vs. clicking with a mouse), and so many different ways of rendering websites means there are more variations than ever. A simple static design on paper can’t begin to show these differences.
What to do?
In order for your website to be best prepared for the future, you should realize that it won’t always look the same from one device to another. Your website will look and work differently in mobile devices than on computers and across different browsers. And that’s good news! That’s what makes the internet so great to use—it’s interactive.
So while you may start a design on paper—hey, it has to start somewhere—don’t let that be the only thing that informs your decision. Make sure that you and your designer/developer see and test the site on different browsers and devices to make sure that everything works properly and that all information is accessible.
In a nutshell, what you want for your website is to make sure that it looks good and works well in different settings. Just don’t get hung up on making it look identical each time. Save that for the brochure.