Writing to the World Wide
I want to revisit some issues we've talked about in past classes and that you've read
Whenever you put together a document, whether it's a term paper, or a newspaper,
place the text and other elements on the page following an established grid. The
purpose of the grid is to establish an orderly pattern to the information you're
presenting on the page, so that your users can look at it and quickly understand
the connections between information, establish what's important, and quickly
skim to find the information they want.
When establishing a grid, there are a few fairly simple principles that you
need to follow.
- Remember that people (in Western, Euro-centric cultures) read
left to right and top to bottom. Thus, the most prominent areas on the page
are the upper left corner, and left edge of the page. Take advantage of these
areas to establish visual cues that show navigation cues and establish
a hierarchy to the information
on your pages.
- Try to align the edges of all elements on the page so that their edges
are touching on of the grid lines.
- Use the same grid on all pages that contain similar types of information.
- When laying out elements on your grid, try to establish a sense of balance
and symmetry. (Don't make one side "heavier" than the other; don't overload
the top of the page.)
John December's Presentation
John pointed out a few issues that I think are very important to think about.
- First, when constructing a website, think about what you personally can contribute
that no one else can, that doesn't exist yet on the web. Think of yourself as an
expert in a particular area. Provide your own perspective on your topic, on the
information you're presenting.
- John talked about four issues that I had you describe in the quiz: porousness,
dynamism, global v. local considerations, and interactivity. Again,
these are important in web design. The concept of porousness refers to anticipating and designing for users to enter
your web at any point, and not just through a front page. Dynamism refers to
the need to constantly keep your website updated, and keep the information fresh,
so that users will keep coming back and finding it useful. Global v. local considerations
refers to the fact that if your website is geared to a specific, local audience, it can still be
accessed by people from around the world. Hence, you should provide identification
cues so that people know "where they are." (John gave the example of pages for
the "Capital District." Since there are several capital districts in the world, it makes
sense to identify which specific capital district a "Capital District Homepage" is
refering to. Interactivity is a little more slippery, but involves giving your users
some way of controlling or manipulating the information that is presented to them,
beyond merely allowing them to click on a variety of links.
- John talked about how the web is evolving. He basically said that it is
moving from a presentation medium (where you create "pages" using HTML)
to a more interactive medium (where you use Java and CGI scripts to give
the user a little more control over the information that is presented or the
ability to provide feedback, to a totally interactive, virtual environment
(where you create virtual worlds using VRML and other higher level coding
schemes). He noted that although this is the direction the web is moving in,
the "higher level" environments won't replace the "lower level" ones. Instead,
which environment you use depends on those two things we've talked about
from the beginning of this class: audience and purpose. John pointed out
that you need a solid grounding in this before you can proceed on to designing
in the other environments.
Chapter 5 in Designing Business concerns where the Web is evolving.
Even so, some of the principles that Mok discusses apply to the "lower level"
presentation-type projects that you're producing in this class. For example,
he presents 10 principles of good GUI design. Try to think through how these
principles apply to what you're designing: "Visibility": make sure the user
always sees and knows where the links are in your pages (this is especially
true of image maps); "Transparency": make sure that the content directs
what you put on your pages, instead of putting stuff on your pages to show
that you can do so. Etc.
I think the most important principle that Mok points out, though, is in
the final section, "Social Science, Not Rocket Science", when he writes:
"A designer's work must always be focused on the people who will experience the interactivity and on what is appropriate for a particular community; the technology employed is always a secondary consideration" (page 147).