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Who Should Use This Book
Once you have learned HTML, you have only just begun. In the early days, it was enough to simply have a web page. This is no longer the case. When your competition numbers in the tens of millions of other web pages, you need to stand out. This is where good design comes in.
This book is for anyone who designs web pages, manages their design process, or reviews and approves web pages (such as the Marketing staff). This book goes a long way toward explaining what makes an effective web page and site-not just cool ones.
How This Book Is Organized
Chapter 1, "Web: A Different Multimedia," describes the similarities and differences between the Web and all other media.
Chapter 2, "Content Design," provides a high-level overview of creating content for the Web.
Chapter 3, "Cognitive Design," discusses the ways to get and keep users' attention without overwhelming them with Information Overload.
Chapter 4, "Audience Considerations," presents the varying needs of the audience and discusses how to analyze the audience and tailor the web design.
Chapter 5, "Navigational Design," provides background into hypertext structures and offers structure design philosophies to carry design to large scale and next generation sites.
Chapter 6, "Layout," presents guidelines for integrating standard desktop publishing with the Web, both at the basic level and with enhancements.
Chapter 7, "Designing Graphical Elements," offers insight into the biggest problems in cross-platform design-the graphics.
Chapter 8, "Meta-Information," provides an overview for the structure needed in next generation web creations to meet the needs of web agents as well as human surfers.
Chapter 9, "Interactivity Design," describes the design of forms and other interactive elements that start to create the coming mass customization.
Chapter 10, "Designing for Time," discusses the temporal aspects of page and site evolution.
Chapter 11, "Experiential Design," discusses design for web media other than HTML.
Chapter 12, "Testing Your Design," itemizes the areas that need to be tested before and after exposing your site to the public.
Case Study 1, "Sun and Java," tours the Sun web site.
Case Study 2, "Point Communications," tours the Point Communication web site.
Case Study 3, "Golfweb," tours the Golfweb web site.
In writing this book, we tried to take on the perspective of all schools of thought that contribute to the Web. The Web is not just a technical programmer's playpen or the sandbox of the desktop publisher.
The Web brings together a wide range of disciplines, including cognitive design, desktop publishing layout (and eventually typography), graphics design, 3-D virtual world design, and interactivity challenges akin to computer game playing, hypertext theory, library sciences, and classical document management.
This book may seem a little scattered at times, but there is no way to reconcile all of these various disciplines into a coherent flowing whole-yet. Bear with us. This too is evolving-.
I have watched the various groups take to the Web as it moved from its research home to the commercial world. Those that designed it originally had a noble philosophy that has been handed down through generations of Internet design-make the stuff work everywhere. These people value the standards process and the creation of a tool that can and has reached critical mass.
However, the Web has gone far beyond the people that originally designed it. Thousands of people and hundreds of companies are contributing to this Stone Soup. Along the way they have made changes and enhancements. Those enhancements are not without value. They add a coherence that cannot be implemented with the existing standard. And they add this coherence in a far more timely fashion than a formal standards committee can respond to.
Therein lies the dilemma. Not only has the Web created a new multimedia out of various tinker toys, it has also devised a new way of measuring time-the web year.
Web years are similar to dog years in the fact that they are shorter than standard human processes. The initial 5 years of web evolution has followed the same path that it took television 75 years to traverse. The Web shows no sign of slowing this rampant evolutionary process.
Each year that you as a designer participate in the Web, you must revise your design strategy from the ground up.
- In 1994, it was enough to have a web page and start sharing information.
- In 1995, that web page met with stiff competition as the number of web sites climbed. At its peak, web sites doubled every 45 days. This rate of change has slowed but is still advancing at supersonic speeds. The design requirements here were to create some enticing aspect that would motivate users to return. Some sites added flashy graphics, others, cute hacks. Many relied on the tried and true: content.
- In 1996, interactivity is the rage. The Web is not a mass communications medium and the "any-color car-er, web page- as long as it is black" is no longer acceptable. People talk back now.
- In 1997, the evolution of interactivity will give way to full- fledged mass customization. If you thought your niches were small before, you are in for a surprise. The personalized newspaper, The Daily Me, will be the rule instead of the exception. Web sites will have to follow suit to stay in the game. Jakob Niesen has already forecast the end of surfing the Web. People are no longer reaching out to get information. It must come to them, prepackaged just as they like it.
- In 1998, there stands a good chance of having more web pages than there are people on the planet. This infoglut will be met head on with technology, namely agents.
Agents will have been around for many years by this time. They will have crawled through the Web as spiders and robots in 1996, indexing web pages and searching for inexpensive CD-ROMS. Their first fledgling steps in 1997 will begin with simple Daily Me compilations and extended shopping trips for concert tickets. By 1998, the user will no longer depend on an information provider to compile and provide editorial content. Agents will have usurped even this role.
There is a shocking level of change in this forecast. That level of change is no greater than the previous evolution of the Web. It has sweeping ramifications for the future of design. The Age of the Knowledge Worker has really arrived.
Randy's Design Philosophy
Communicating on the Internet via the World Wide Web has no other precedent. In the time it took the Gutenberg press to mass-produce and distribute books, years had elapsed. The World Wide Web is a mere infant in comparison, appearing on the scene less than two years ago. Yet it has grown to become one of the most superior technologies of communication and interaction we have ever seen. It is robust, personal, easy to use, international, and potentially larger in its offerings than radio, television, video, telephone, or cable. To design for it is to design the future.
I became interested in the World Wide Web because I am an educational technologist. Since my early days in college in the late 70s, I have been looking for a way to educate large numbers of people at the same time, on any subject. In doing so, I would be able to affect the way a market evolves, improve processes within an organization, open the potential and creativity of any student, and ultimately raise the consciousness of the individual. So, my academic history led me through one technology after another:
laser disc technology, computer-assisted learning, artificial intelligence research, computer-based training, application software design, multimedia development, electronic performance support systems, CD-ROM, and now, the globally distributed, interactive World Wide Web.
Using these various educational technologies, I designed and developed different ways for students to learn and collaborate. But no matter what I tried, I kept hitting the same brick wall. I could only develop an environment as rich as the information that I found in libraries, books, and from other colleagues. I was intellectually bound by the content. If I used content experts, once the product was complete, the content expert returned to his own world of continuous learning, and I to my next project. What happened to the program? It became dated, then unused.
Like CD-ROM technology, I could produce different pieces of multimedia and show a little bit about a subject or delve into a subject in detail. But I had to continually authenticate the information, expanding my own weary knowledge on the subject and maintaining the quality and quantity of the information myself. And, without the classroom contact, I couldn't really get the students to collaborate well, even when e-mail came into existence. I needed something more robust, more distributed, more connected to expert systems. I needed content to be maintained by the originators, and the feedback mechanisms to be integrated throughout the communication system. I needed an environment I could develop quickly without six months of development and two months of testing.
When I joined Sun Microsystem's SunU, I was introduced to the Internet via Mosaic and the World Wide Web. SunU was intricately tied into Icon Author and Gain's Momentum, both very good authoring programs for computer-assisted learning. However, when I examined these as development environments, I found the same old problems. I had trouble quickly accessing content, collaborating with experts over long periods of time, and shortening my development cycle. SunU was on the cutting edge of electronic conferencing and electronic performance systems environments in which the internal users could learn software through Rad Technology-driven tutorials. I liked the technologies, but I found the same problems creeping up behind me; I wanted to interact globally, over large populations, with diverse audiences, at various levels of learning. Marketing, sales, human resources, and engineers wanted to reach the same group.
I was assigned the task of training Sun Microsystems global sales force and systems engineers on the Internet. The thought hit me immediately: why not use the tool to train and distribute the information? In doing so, I could reach critical mass very quickly and develop in an environment that I could program myself and team with experts, rather than project manage a team of programmers, designers, and developers. Within 11 weeks, using Sun's internal resources and a telephone, I created Sun on the Net, which allowed Sun's sales force and system engineers to be prepared for Sun's official launch of Internet Solutions at SunWorld `95.
Even more useful, the customers could be on the same page as Sun's staff, collaborating in efforts to understand how to streamline their business with Sun's client/server Internet solutions. Sun on the Net provided users with training/information on what the Internet was, what Sun's strategy on the Internet was, how to do business on the Internet, who was doing business on the Internet, what Sun's solutions and configurations for different enterprises throughout the world could be, etc. The training provided objectives, links to the key features of Sun's Internet strategy (Netra and Java), and criteria that served as test answers if uses wanted to evaluate their understanding or key concepts. The site was distributed worldwide, with an internal site mirroring the external site, enriched with proprietary information, from prices to competitive information. The site was a success.
I discovered all of the technical limitations, of course. I couldn't distribute Rad Technology's software across multiple platforms. I couldn't incorporate sound, video, or interactive test questions without halting most laptops and PC-based machines. I could get feedback from a user, but I had difficulty intelligently managing individual learning requirements. But despite these obstacles, I knew it would be a matter of a few months before the software tools were built to assist in developing the right kind of environment for interactive learning on-line. Right in the midst my enthusiasm, I saw Java develop and Netscape's wide distribution of quality software emerge as a way of adding on, or plugging in, to the rapid development of software applications to enhance interactivity.
And, now within a short nine months, I see Shockwave, Real Audio, VRML, Java- enhanced sites, drag-and-drop manipulable objects, feedback mechanisms, testing environments, and real live connectivity to the experts in the field. The content I had at my fingertips was amazing. The quality of the content was coming from the best of the best. I saw the ability to navigate huge databases and develop elegant feedback environments and chatting sessions that would enable the learner and the master to communicate one on one, or one on many others. And, I saw that these environments could be designed quickly and efficiently, using the latest findings in educational psychology.
What really began to thrill me was seeing the introduction of entertainment elements, where students/learners/users could discovery new ways of seeing or doing things. I saw a playful game-like environment, in which the beginner, the intermediate, and the advanced student could dive into a world of interactive, focused information and come out knowing and being exposed to more than any environment I've ever developed in before. I saw learning and investigation igniting like a nova.
My conclusion. We are only at the brink of where we're going. Design is completely relative to our creative potential and imagination. One month, and frames, VRML and Shockwave are born. Another month, and Java-enhanced sites allow us to manipulate objects on the screen. So far, we've spent a lot of time imitating the outside environment, the paper and pen, the mail, the television programming environment, and the classroom. However, we've just started to scratch the surface of how to accelerate experience in this new environment. Imagine having all information at your fingertips, with the ability to access it instantly and to reorganize it to fit your needs and to satisfy your audience's/student's/user's needs immediately. And, you get audio, video, virtual reality, bouncing, jamming interactive fun and discovery at the same time. Oh, and when you're not working, studying, or researching, you are surfing worlds you never imagined entering even a year ago.
We need to transition from our present experience on the Web to a more integrated experience. Up to this point, I designed for efficiency. I want to see users get information at a glance. I want to reduce cognitive overload. I want my designs to start like a movie, wide- angle view of an idea, topic, subject, and provide ad quick overview that is clean, simple, elegant, and explains the topic in five to seven icons, sounds, movie clips, or whatever. Then, I like the user to be able to pick the area to focus on and be able to seamlessly move into the information, picking the kind of information he/she wants, manipulating it freely and digging in for more, until their thirst is quenched.
Users differ, their styles differ, their cognitive needs differ, and so the way they access, process, and reuse information varies. In the way I view design, there is a mode for every learner. There are visual modes, aural modes, tactile modes, experiential modes. The designs have to accommodate the variation with the global population, in language, approach, orientation, and delivery. The design has to be as varied as the global identities that make up its users. I see new sites articulating our collective unconsciousness daily.
As the Web develops, I am banking on simulated environments like SimCity and SimEarth from Maxis Software in Walnut Creek, California. I'm looking for Java to bring us SimSales, SimPsychology, SimHouseBuilding, SimMedicine, SimPoolRepair, SimGardening, SimBonsai. I want to see the user be able to enter an environment in which he can manipulate variables and immediately see the results. Instead of getting a list of the ten most important things that he has to do, he will instead be handed the ten most important tools and an environment in which discoveries must be made by himself. In short, he will receive the tests first, and the lessons afterward-kind of like life.
I want to see more fantasy on the Web, more playful environments, in which the user is pulled into the scene, much like we get pulled into a movie like Indiana Jones or Silence of the Lambs. In other words, when the environment engages our senses, our feelings, and perhaps even our instincts, then we'll be more alerted to the environment, so we'll have a reason and a need to discover how to manipulate the environment to survive. When real engagement happens and anything goes, you've got the user's attention!
I've been in school for more years than I care to count. I loved the interaction with the students and an occasional professor or two. But, I have to admit, most of the time I felt I was in an experiential ghetto. All the information was droning, presented with the technology of linearity, one solution for all the hundreds of people who have gone through this subject before. I never felt excited until I left the classroom and started hanging out in the student bars and interacting with information in apprenticeships. Then, I was introduced to the World Wide Web, and I feel as though my learning has begun all over again. I feel like a kid, pushing buttons, setting off reactions, communicating with anyone from the President to Timothy Leary, and getting responses. I feel I'm touching other cultures and interacting with information I'd never dreamed of before. I am excited. I am motivated. And, now I'm dedicated to finding how to improve it, how to learn more about it, and how to design and develop in it, with every new technology, every new twist in the road ahead.
There are some remarkable visionaries out there making predictions about the World Wide Web, the Super Information Highway. Bill Gates has a vision, Scott McNealy another, Jim Clark from Netscape another, Nicholas Negroponte another. And the fiction writer's visions, like Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and Irwin Winkler's The Net, keep toying with our imaginations of how it's going to be. They're all right, and they're all pioneers barely scratching the surface of how this environment is going to change the way we do everything. Whatever happens, I'll be there, designing, developing and playing.
Visit me in my cybercube. Stop in and talk awhile; I always learned the most that way anyway.
Morris, Mary E. S. :
Mary E. S. Morris is a noted Internet and Web speaker at conferences including Web World, Networld+Interop, and Internet World International as well as author of the SunSoft Press/Prentice Hall PTR bestseller HTML For Fun And Profit. She has also contributed to the web infrastructure of Fortune 1000 companies.
Hinrichs, Randy J. :
Randy J. Hinrichs is an instructional technologist who has been working on delivering education over many different platforms for 15 years. His work on the World Wide Web includes several design sites at Sun Microsystems in World Wide Web education and global field training.
About This Book.
Who Should Use This Book.
How This Book Is Organized.
Randy's Design Philosophy.
1. Web - A Different Multimedia.
New Rules. Design Implications. Web Design Issues. New Skills. The Design Process. Staffing Considerations. User Considerations. Top Design Spots. Mind Maps. Meeting the Interactive Challenge. Make it Interactive. Identify with the User. Provide Interactive Tools. Contrasting. Media. Print. CD-ROM-based Multimedia. Web Is More Than Just HTML. Design Problems. Information Overload. Limits to the User's Attention. Lost in Cyberspace. Key Points.
I. DESIGN PRINCIPLES.
2. Content Design.
Redesign Content for the Medium. What is Content? Five Kinds of Sites. Internet Commerce (outside the fire wall). Intranet Sites (inside the firewall). What Content Goes On-line? Five Content Types. Representing Content Types on the Web. Meet the Audience's Goals. Writing for the Web Culture. Redesigning Text for the Web. Emphasize the Important. Focus on the Links. Shorten Text. Text Formatting. Remove Transitional Rhetoric. Rewrite References. Avoid Overstimulus. Change the Tone for the Internet Audience. Copyedit Text. Web Cliches. To Understand the Web, Use the Web. An International Note. Revise Graphics for Medium. Illustrations. Charts. Tables. Whitespace. Plan Common Look and Feel. Plan Color Scheme. A Word About Commercial On-line Services. Word of Warning. Publish Current Material Regularly. Update Stale Content. The More Info Syndrome. Summary. Key Points.
3. Cognitive Design.
The Human Brain: A Working Definition. User Needs. Delight the User. Receiving Information. Working Definitions. Designing in the Foreground. Middleground. Background. Memory and Recall. Analyzing Information. Cognitive Overload. Naming. Acting Upon Information. Encourage Users to Give Back. Manage Information. A Last Word-Other Cognitive Needs. Real World Experiences. Empathy. Art and Science. Language. Learning. Summary. Key Points.
4. Audience Considerations.
Categorize the Audience. Skill Level. Technology Level. Surfing Experience. Search Skills. Age and General Computer Experience. Define Goals and Expectations. Cognitive Expectations. Technical Expectations. Content Expectations. Functional Expectations. Defining Expectations. Linguistic Expectations. Jargon. Humor. Feedback. Web Skills. Navigational Skills. Browser Skills. Relationship Awareness. Are Pages Simple/Complex Enough? Type of Browser. Mailto: Capability. Table Usage. Netscapisms. Bandwidth. Consider the International Audience. Key Points.
5. Navigational Design.
HTML Philosophy. Publishing History. Layout Primer. Make the Page Readable. Create Visual Variety. Create Blocks. Define Focal Point(s) of a Page. Layout Formulas. Layout for Multiple Audiences. Lowest Common Denominator. Enhanced Audience. Two Sets of Web Pages. Layout in Basic HTML 2.0. Layout with Tables. Layout in Netscape 1.1 HTML. Backgrounds. Alignment. Image Sizing. Layout in Netscape 2.0 Extensions - Frames. Layout in Stylesheets. Layout in HTML 3.0. Layout in VRML. Key Points.
7. Designing Graphical Elements.
Element Properties. Pixel Size. Byte Size. Colormap Size. Number of Polygons. ALT Attribute Usage for Limited Graphics. Create Literal Replacements. Make Logos Explicit. Make Horizontal Rule ALTs Compensate for Layout. Imagemaps. Imagemaps Create Ambiguity. Elements in an Imagemap. Imagemaps with Figure Overlays. Client-Side Imagemaps. Imagemaps Enhanced with Java. Using Graphics. When To Use Graphics? When Not to Use Graphics? Determining Graphics Usage. Key Points.
8. Adding Meta-Information.
The Need for Meta-Information. Information About the Document. Tags. Identifying and Quantifying Content. Identifying Associated Parties. Identifying Document Properties. Dating and Timeliness Information. Examples of Usage. Information About Relationships. Standard Navigational Relationships. Example of Usage. Uses. Enhanced Web Robots a la Yahoo. URCs (Universal Resource Catalogs). PICS Rating System. Key Points.
9. Interactivity Design.
Forms stuff. Submit Button. Size Text Boxes. Keep Fields Visible. Consistently Position Labels. Group Fields. Building Custom Pages on-the- Fly. Limit User Choices. Future Designing. Key Points.
10. Designing for Time.
Expandable Structure. Ownership. Change Notification. Construction Zones. Single Landmark Changes. Full Page Changes. Location Changes. Automating Maintenance Procedures. Defining Time Factors. Anticipate Next Generation Web Technologies. Database Usage. Cataloging and the
Tag. Graphics Changes. Java. VRML. Key Points.
11. Experiential Design.
What is Experiential Design? HTML is Not an Experiential Language; It is an Intellectual One. Other Web Technologies Meet the Experiential Needs. Design Issues. Design for Sensory Dominance. Include the User As the Center of Attention. Design Real Experiences. Include Language as an Audio Experience. Include Tools. Design for Discovery. Apply the Principles of Foreground and Middleground. Problem Solving. Motivation. Design for Play. Design Tools. Virtual Reality. VRML. VRML Design Issues. VRML Sites. Key Points.
12. Testing the Design.
Before You Go On-line. Copyedit. Jargon Check. Readability and Usability Check. Validate HTML. Verify Links. Browser and Platform Check. Speed Check. After the Site Goes On-line. Feedback - Comments from Users. Logfile Analysis. Test After Upgrade. Final Note. Key Points.
II. CASE STUDIES.
13. Sun and Java, Case Study No. 1.
Background. Reducing Information load. Organization. Conclusion.
14. Point Communications, Case Study No. 2.
Background. Navigation and Location. Home. Top of Review Tree. Conclusion.
15. GolfWeb, Case Study No. 3.
Background. Design Features. Common Look and Feel. Make the site Interactive. Appropriate Use of Language. Emphasize the Important First. Content, Content, Content. Internationalization. Five Content Types. Layout Supports Content. Conclusion.
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