The deepest and most long-lived conundrum of web designers has always been comparing themselves to their “print” counterpart. Web designers and software developers understand that the web is not print, and print is not the web. Yet the two worlds often collide as designers and developers attempt to achieve the semblance that physical paper provides, with the flexibility and fluidity that we’ve come to expect on the web.
I don’t know about you, but there’s something about the standard newspaper that still forms an impression on me. Maybe it’s the weight of holding something tangible, or the fresh nature of a just-unwrapped newspaper in the morning, and starting the day off right.
It’s certainly not the ink smearing onto my fingers, nor having to walk to the end of the driveway on rainy mornings to pick up a soggy plastic bag.
It’s also not the particular paper service (I’ve read the Chicago Tribune my whole life, but I also enjoy picking up just about any paper and perusing it).
I think it has something to do with a newspapers’ size, portability, legibility, and flexibility.
That’s why I am intrigued with new applications that attempt to mimic a newspaper’s features on the computer screen.
These two applications attempt to mimic a newspapers’ legibility and layout. There’s a certain appeal to how the eye scans headlines presented in newspaper format. Newspapers contain one element that web sites typically lack: typographical representation of information.
However, despite their best attempts to create digital newspapers, they are still missing three other key elements: size, portability, and flexibility.
A computer is a high-priced piece of equipment. You wouldn’t want to spill coffee on it, crumple it between car seats, or use it to wipe windows. A newspaper can do all these things.
A computer is bulky and requires consistent battery recharging, and an iPhone-like device is too small to read lengthy articles. A newspaper is completely portable.
Your average newspaper, when opened fully, is 30 inches wide, and requires two hands to hold. That’s a lot of space, full of article goodness. That much content would require at least ten separate web page clicks.