A Modern Publishing Medium


Physical Components

The Web's physical components distinguish it from other publishing mediums. As Steve Outing notes in E & P Interactive, 

With the printed newspaper, you don't really have usability problems. The ability to turn the page, or follow a jump line to an inside page, is pretty much universal without teaching the reader these skills. There are no resolution problems; the printed page is easy on the eyes and type is crisp. The printed page doesn't subtly flash before your eyes. [OUT]

One physical constraint of the Web is that users cannot directly manipulate information on the Web like they could with a magazine or a book. Markus Nordberg of CERN explains that there is no "feel factor" with the Web: "The fundamental limitation with the Web is that you've just got what you see, you can't feel it" [NOR]. This physical remoteness may lead users to feel less connected to the information. 

Tim Berners-Lee anticipates, however, that in the future people will see computer systems simply as screens: "Hopefully that will become so pervasive that when you turn on any screen, you see the information space" [BERT]. As people become adjusted to the Web, its physical hardware may not matter as much and may seem as natural as newspaper pages. 

Another physical limitation of the Web is the difficulty involved with reading from a computer screen. Due to the low resolutions and slow refresh rates of standard computers, text is read 25% slower from a computer screen than from paper [OUT]. 

The technology behind the Web yields both advantages and disadvantages. It allows many different people, who are using many different platforms, to have access to the same information. However, because people are running Web pages from many different platforms, the information will not be conveyed to every user in the same way. This forces designers to rethink the format of their documents. 



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Author: Katy Montgomery 

Last Updated: 14 May 1999