Design and Function in Digital Publishing

Posted on Jan 7, 2019 - By Sasha Drujinina

There are many reasons why people click on certain products or prefer the appearance of one over another. As facilitators of value to consumers, businesses must keep these considerations in mind when designing their products. However, in this digital age it is imperative that businesses consider how their website functions and benefits their consumers. Business must consider the principles of design in the digital world.

Digital publishing must follow the same understanding to make sure websites work for customers. This involves ensuring that web content is functional on all platforms: laptops, tablets and phones. Design functionality includes easy, intuitive navigation, logical flow and consistency. Businesses must keep the customer experience in mind when creating sites for the organization. Creating well thought out and designed webpages will help both you and your customers get the desired result.

Design Elements and Principles

Designing websites for increased functionality helps to increase efficiency of the marketing funnel. This functionality is accomplished through implementing design principles and elements that make the website appealing as well as easily navigable to get customers to purchase products and services or provide their information.

Design is ruled by visual elements, but they must be used strategically and not simply for aesthetic appeal. When used together in the proper ratios, design elements invite site visitors to accomplish the goals you set for the site. The purpose of utilizing design elements such as lines, colors, typography, size and texture in addition to design principles like balance, contrast, repetition and space in digital publishing is to make navigating websites simple. The majority of online visitors want to accomplish their goal on a website as quickly as possible.

Effective sites organize information into chunks so that users can scan and digest it easier. Blocking off information and images with uniform square shapes helps to differentiate content and allow users to scan. Hierarchy and priority of information can be established using—at most three—different repetitions of font styles and sizes.

Functional Design

Functional digital design anticipates what the user is looking for and designs accordingly to satisfy that need. It involves making information easy to sort mentally and read quickly. Effective digital design takes full advantage of the web space available and maximizes the impact of the website. Functional design is responsive, meaning that it adjusts to the constraints of the various screen sizes and digital platforms online viewers use. It is imperative to create at least three different designs for one website so that all of the information and character of the site can be translated easily form platform to platform. Functional design considers what users need and offers the fastest, easiest way to get it through the website.


56 percent of online visitors are mobile users, so functional design must take this into account. With the limited space of four inch screens, website layouts on mobile must convey a condensed but equally effective layout to the user. Each page, especially the home page, must be exceptionally clear about what the user should do. For a website that wants the customers to make a purchase immediately, the home page must provide meaningful information about the product as well as a compelling call to action and a navigation menu for the rest of the site. Design for this kind page can create hierarchy through variations in color, opacity and text size.

For sites that are heavy with written content, functional design must consider how the user reads online content, how large to make images and boxes and where ads can be displayed. Phone screens accommodate a maximum image size of 250 pixels at 100 percent width of the screen before it begins to look distorted, becomes distracting or slows down the site. However, images on mobile screens must add value to the user and the purpose of the page. Otherwise, they are a distraction that can turn users away. Fonts for mobile screens must be large and legible: starting at 16 CSS pixels and then adjusting based on hierarchy.

Overall, the greatest design considerations for mobile sites revolve around the limited screen space. Mobile layout design must maximize the minimal width with decreased font and button sizes and efficiently use the vertical space with effective color, shape and image choices to guide the user.

Laptops and Desktops

The larger screen size of laptops and desktops allows for both vertical and horizontal implementation of design elements since these screens are typically wider than they are long. Even with larger screens, it is important to limit the complexity of the site by putting content into digestible chunks. For example, a card design on a page helps to give viewers a preview of an article or page. This keeps information contained and the design clean and organized. Desktop and laptop screens accommodate 900 pixels and more. However, that doesn’t mean you should be adding more. Like with mobile sites, functional digital design keeps the viewer’s experience in mind and tries to eliminate unhelpful distractions. This is why larger screens are optimal for utilizing white or negative space. It allows the user’s eyes to gravitate toward prominent links, buttons and pictures instead of meandering and getting bored.

Advertisements on websites are an important consideration. However, they must be presented as such and not as enhancements or additions to the website content. On laptop and desktop screens, ads can be effectively placed alongside content as long as it is clearly different from the content itself. Other functional locations are on the right side of the page or the top banner.


Tablets are the middle ground between laptop and mobile screens.  They can accommodate both types as they have smaller screens but can function vertically and horizontally. Even with a larger screen, tablet website design must follow the effective design principles of mobiles sites. Tablets accommodate 600 to 900 pixels so they can take full advantage of full size images and videos.

A tablet can present a scaled down version of a desktop site design but would function best with a combination of desktop and mobile features: the simplified layouts and orientation of buttons and menus found on mobiles along with the image capabilities and utilization of white space of desktops.