Newspaper Web Page Design
>> Focus on Weeklies and Small Town Papers <<
Factors to consider when putting your newspaper online.

Although I sit here surrounded by dozens of $50 Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Web Design guide books, a lot of this is learned by trial and error and by meticulous searching newsgroups.
  Page Width (avoid horizontal scroll bars when possible) This page is now 823 pixels wide to hold the ruler above but the table holding the text is set at 635 pixels. Although most pcs can accommodate a setting that wide, the current standard is 595 and readers would likely have to expand their window for this width. The following information was gathered in 2001.

- 595 pixels (Online Athens). 7% of users set monitor resolution at 640x480, particularly inexperienced users and those with older PCs. This width prints out well (more on printing) although Firefox and Netscape let you reduce the page to fit your paper.
- 635 pixels (The True Citizen). The widest resolution for printing on standard paper but creates a small horizontal scroll bar at 640x480.
- 760 pixels (Arizona Central). 53% of users set monitor resolution at 800x600. This width creates a horizontal scroll bar on lower resolutions and cuts off right-side data when printed out.
- 795 pixels (Augusta Chronicle). This width creates a slight horizontal scroll bar on 15" monitors even at an 800x600 resolution.
- Larger. 40% of users set monitor resolution at 1024x768 or higher. Very few sites target that width.
- Variable Width offers less formatting control than fixed width and is a particular problem when you have images together with text. However, it permits the page to adjust to a functional printing width.
- Wider page widths usually mean broader headers which increases page loading time.

  Page Length
For maximum impact, web designers work to eliminate vertical scroll bars (Mendocino Beacon). I don't believe this is necessary for online papers but do put the most important news at the top of the page so that it shows onscreen when the page first loads.
  Number of Columns

- Two (Grand Canyon News)
- Three w/advertising (Pine & Lakes)
- Three w/no advertising (BBC)
- Four w/advertising (Savannah Now)
- Four w/no advertising (New York Times)
- Five (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Avoid rolling text from one column to the next to avoid unnecessary scrolling.


- Arial 10 (Atlanta Journal)
Times Roman 12 (Bradenton Herald, body text)
Variable Width 12 (Washington Post, body text
- Trebuchet 10 (Juneau Alaska)
- Comic Sans 10 (this page, may be too casual for newspaper)
- Avoid using too large fonts for headings
- Other fonts may not be on the users PC and won't be readable.

- The best fonts I found for small buttons were aliased Trebuchet, Verdana, and Georgia.
- Use pixels rather than points when designating size.
- An expert's advice on screen fonts.


- Left (Coastal Courier) justification is more useful for readers that open multiple, over-lapped browser windows and is more professional.
- Center (Key-Biscane) justification conveys a simple and less professional image.

  Navigation Bars

- Left (Holland Sentinel)
- Right (Amarillo Daily News)
- Top (
- Bottom (Arizona Central)
- Most sites use a combination of all four.

  Page Size/Loading Time

Most small-town papers load too slowly, particulary given that more than 2/3 of all readers are connecting with a modem. Most of the links I put on this page are larger than 100 kb. Total page size ideally should be less than 30kb but I shoot for 60kb.
- Small and Attractive (The Islander, 16kb) but their server is sometimes impossibly slow.
- Quick Enough (Keynoter, 60kb)
- Too Big (Glennville Sentinel, 115kb). I found some above 300kb.


- Original drawings or photos add authenticity and professionalism over clip art. (The True Citizen, Islander, Keynoter )
- Keep them small. The gif image at the top is 150 pixels wide and less than 7kb. This jpg image is 184 pixels wide and less than 8 kb.
Size them before you put them on your page. Here's how to edit your photo using Photoshop (link is to a 234 kb page! That is why you don't use large photos).

I am still working to resolve differences between the latest versions of Internet Explorer (IE), Netscape Navigator (not 6.0), and Opera. I have chosen to not worry about older editions of browsers. IE is the most predictable, which is fortunate because 86% of all users view the internet with this browser vs. 13% for Netscape. I use Opera because it is truely faster, doesn't crash the way Netscape does, and isn't owned by Microsoft. But I can't get some of my own pages to work right with it. I also wasn't able to resolve all of my problems with Netscape 4.78 (I don't like 6.0).
  Site File Structure

Our first site had all the files in one folder. Since we maintained no online archive, only had five pages, and used Netscape Composer for editing, this worked fine. Composer gets confused when you use subfolders. The new site is starting off with 20 pages not counting advertising, is archived online, searchable, and designed with Dreamweaver, requiring a more complex structure. This structure seems logical to me based on my reading and was designed to be easy for someone else to understand.

  File and Folder Naming Conventions

To prevent errors, I suggest naming all files in lower case. The underscore character ( _ ) is acceptable. Do not use spaces or special characters (e.g. ! @ ~ # $ % ^ & * : ') in file names. Keep the length of file names to a minimum.

  Save Time and Money

- Search Engine: If your site has less than 500 pages, you can get a free search engine from Atomz that is incredibly easy to install.
- Calendar: I had my $20 calendar from htmlcalendar customized and installed in five minutes. Keeping it updated, however, took too long so we aren't using it.


I have explored automated web publishing systems that take the text from Pagemaker right into html and have yet to find one affordable to small-town weeklies. Fortunately, manual 'cut-n-paste' publishing works well and prevents messages like this which I find daily on my hometown paper: "We apologize for the inconvenience, but there has been a technical problem with our Internet publishing system. Please check back soon."

  Feedback Forms

Creating forms is easy with Dreamweaver. Writing the CGI scripts to make them send the data to the right place was harder than I wanted to think. While you can write simple code to get the data to you in e-mail form, that process requires the user to have e-mail set up correctly on their pc. Get your web site host to help you with the code.

  Links for Weekly Newspapers

- Gebbie Press
- Weekly Newspapers Online

  Other Links

- Production Graphics Read the tutorials on menus.
- Technews Online
- Morris Digital Works
- Georgia Press Association
- Editor and Publisher Online
- Web Pages That Suck

  Dreamweaver Advice

It took me two days to figure out how to create my headline and byline using H1 and H2 in without putting a blank line between them. To do this, double click on css.styles, edit H1, select box, margin-bottom: 0; padding-bottom: 0. Then edit H2, box, margin-top: 0; padding-top: 0. I'm still seeing the space in Netscape but it is working fine in IE and Opera. My thanks to Eric Meyer for the answer. Also look here to learn how to do links.

Also, to remove the margin on this page (notice how my images go right to the edges) I set all margins in Page Properties at 0.

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