Writing to the World Wide Web
Graphics on the Web (continued):
Color and Layout


Color can greatly enhance web pages, but if not used judiciously, it can create a real mess. Good color use can bring to a web page the following:

Poor color use can do the opposite: decrease attention, decrease performance, cause disorientation, and increase difficulty on the part of your audience.

Aside from making your web pages appealing (which we've talked about before), color is good for communicating a document's information structure.

According to Keyes, "Color's effectiveness as an information cue depends on several factors: where color is used within the information structure, what elements are cued, how color cues are differentiated, and what color characteristics are used." (646). (See The Yuckiest Site On the Internet. and Friends and Partners and Sony for cueing)

Here are some other things to think about when using color:

Find a partner. Once you have found a partner, I will assign you one of the sites below. For each site, ask yourselves what you associate with the color scheme of the site. Does the site work for you or not? for its intended audience? What kind of pathos do the colors convey? What kind of ethos?

Be prepared to explain what works and does not work (briefly), and why.

  1. Bakersfield
  2. Ellen's Place
  3. Turtle
  4. The Peabody Home Page
  5. APFire
  6. Eric
  7. Sun Microsystems


    Probably the most important result of layout is to ensure that your audience is not lost. The bottom line is that people want to know where they are in relation to your site (figure-ground), where to look for things on your site (parallel vs. sequential processes), and where to focus their attention (contrast). See this law firm.

    On the other hand, don't bore your users with plain-looking gifs and layout because you don't want them to be lost. Sure, the bottom line is that people want to know where to look for things -- this is necessary not just for orientation, but so that readers can have the freedom to read your document in order they want. Take a look at GolfWeb or Virtual Society on the Web.

    So, be creative, but be sensible. Things that can help include the following:

    Find a partner or two. Look at each of the sites listed below. Considering the issues about layout that we just discussed, try to ascertain 1) how the layout fits the intended audience for the site, and 2) how the layout best allows for the purpose and proper functioning of the site.

    Sun Microsystems
    (note: These notes were developed by Fil Sapienza for his Writing to the World Wide Web course. Portions paraphrased from Elizabeth Keyes "Topics in Visual Literacy," 1991 and from her courses on "Publication Practicum" (1994) and "Visual Communication" (1994)). Some graphics taken from Jan V. White, Color in the Electronic Age, 1990).

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