What is a Masthead?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Mastheads are a concept that predates the creation of web pages. Essentially, a masthead is a graphic image that is often found at the top of a printed or electronic page. The masthead may include a number of different elements that are designed to catch the eye and provide the page with a degree of visual appeal. Most designers for mastheads also attempt to create a final design that will be easy for viewers to remember and easily associate with the publication.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

The masthead is often considered to be a very important component in defining the look of the front page of a website. Several different elements can combine to create a visually appealing graphic that will entice the visitor to the site to remain and explore the contents in more detail. To this end, the masthead may contain such key elements as an easily recognized company logo, a text title in fonts and colors that catch the eye, or some sort of graphic image that helps to tell the viewer something important about the purpose and function of the web site.

When the overall design of the masthead is effective, visitors to the website are much more likely to continue scanning the web page and hopefully finding additional elements that attract attention. Many online retail businesses understand that a properly designed masthead can cause someone browsing the Internet to stop long enough to develop interest in the site and begin browsing through the items offered for sale. For this reason, many online stores will spend a great deal of time and energy in creating a masthead that will come to be familiar and welcoming to the buying public.

The amount of space that the masthead employs on the web page will vary from one application to another. Some web site owners find that a masthead that utilizes up to one third of the front page is effective. Others may choose to create a masthead that takes up the majority of the front page, and is only augmented with a hot button to allow the visitor to proceed to the next page. Still others choose to go with a relatively small and simple masthead and save most of the room for the display of items for sale or promotional announcements. As with print media, the use of the masthead in online applications covers a lot of ground, and is often determined by the marketing strategies employed by the business involved.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


According to Merriam-Webster, the masthead is also "the name of a publication (as a newspaper) displayed on the top of the first page."

This article seems to be referring mostly to the masthead in website applications and layout.

However, I've been with a newspaper for nearly 20 years, and I can definitively say that what we call the masthead is the name of the newspaper at the top of the front page.

We call the box with the information about the publisher, etc., the "publisher's box," but this may not be true at every newspaper. That's just what we call it.


@annon146479: You're false in your assumption working both in print and web media. This definition and explanation is correct. Legal is usually reserved for copy or table of contents editorial or legal pages and or the rear of the publication.


I disagree with your definition of "masthead". It's actually "the printed matter in a newspaper or periodical that gives the title and details of ownership, advertising rates, and subscription rates," to quote Merriam-Webster.

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