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    Home : Net Life : Creating A Web Presence : Design Considerations 
Design Considerations
 
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The Basics
Creating a Web Presence
 
Introduction
Strategic Considerations
Content Considerations
Web Server and Internet Access Considerations
Design Considerations
Using Vendors
Evaluating Web Sites and Designers
Planning For The Future
Resource Locator
Electronic Communications
Electronic Publishing
Electronic Commerce
Online Marketing
Web site design includes:

  1. Designing the flow of information and the organization of individual pages. This will largely depend upon the content and services you are offering, how they work together and how you expect your audience will use them. Think it through carefully so that you don't lose the user or make it too difficult to use and navigate your Web site.

  2. The optional inclusion of special information management or data manipulation facilities. For example, if you want to build a directory of dog breeders in a given region, someone will likely have to design and script the database for it. Similarly, you may want to incorporate an automatic emailing or guest registration function.

  3. Traditional graphic design and illustrations for the pages so that your site is appealing and easy to use. This will require some knowledge of computer graphics development, file types and sizes especially as they relate to performance and usability, and some understanding of the particular nature of designing for strengths and weaknesses of onscreen media and Web browsers.

  4. Using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) to compose the actual Web pages. HTML is a language used in composing Web pages. It is a fairly simple language for describing how a page should look and act when it reaches the user's screen, including what text or graphics should appear where, where to go if the user selects a link, what to do when forms are filled out, etc. This is all explained to the browser through pieces of code in the HTML document called "tags." Creating HTML documents is sometimes referred to as "tagging a document." When someone connects to a Web site, the Web browser asks the server to transmit a copy of the requested Web page. The server sends the HTML description of that page which the browser interprets and displays on the user's screen. HTML is not difficult to learn, and many word processors have announced that they will shortly have "export to HTML translators."

HTML and its handling by different Web browsers present unique challenges to the Web site designer. Among the most important is that some browsers understand newer or more sophisticated versions of HTML code than others. All browsers, for example, understand that a certain piece of text is tagged as a title and therefore should look different than text in a body paragraph. Some browsers use versions of HTML that let you specify that the title should be exactly 18 point type. A user with another, less powerful browser that does not support this specification, however, will see the title in the closest approximation to 18 point type his or her browser can deliver. Some browsers can handle online forms or different kinds of backgrounds, while others cannot. Text browsers, such as Lynx, do not display graphics at all.

It is estimated that as of July 1995, some 75% of the Web browsers in use were Netscape browsers. This has led to a line appearing on many sites that says: "This site is optimized for a Netscape browser," meaning that the site uses the most sophisticated features that only the latest version of Netscape's Navigator product will be able to read. The good news is that when a browser cannot read a tag it simply ignores what it cannot interpret, displaying the material as best it can rather than crashing or quitting. Other considerations to keep in mind include:

  • HTML's ability to use links makes it a "hypermedium." Writing text for hypermedia makes it sometimes easier for the user to read information in small chunks, clicking on links when they want more information.

  • HTML is designed to be fast and "device independent." This can mean limitations on the size and types of files you can use in a Web document.

  • HTML is changing and advancing rapidly, making new capabilities available in more recent browsers. New techniques such as using animation and virtual reality analogs to HTML are very near significant breakthroughs. See Planning for the Future.

Another thing to keep in mind is that different people will access your site using different computers and monitors with varying capabilities. You may choose, for example, colors in your graphics that look great on your high resolution, 24 bit, 17" color monitor, but some people using a low resolution 256-color laptop will see your pictures at a different size and the colors will change based on their monitor's capabilities.

As with other areas of Web site development, you will have to decide which of these tasks you have the knowledge, talent, time and resources to do yourself, and with which you want to get help. None of these tasks are beyond the reach of an individual who has the desire to learn. Many different vendors can help you with some or all from designers to freelance programmers to Internet Presence Providers. See Using Vendors and Evaluating Web Sites and Designers for more information. The following sources of information are also available:

HTML and Web Browser Information

Online Information:

Books:

  • World Wide Web Design Guide
    By Stephen Wilson, Hayden Books.
  • HTML 3.0 Manual of Style, 2nd Edition
    By Larry Aronson, Ziff-Davis Press.
  • Spinning the Web
    By Andrew Ford, International Thomson Computer Press.
  • HTML Visual Quick Reference
    By Dean Scharf, QUE. This book shows you what the various tags look like in various browsers.
  • Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML in a Week
    By Laura Lemay, Sams Publishing.
  • More Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML in a Week By Laura Lemay, Sams Publishing. The material in the books is complemented by a Web site that is kept very current, preventing the material in the book from becoming outdated. The URL for the book's Web site is http://www.lne.com/Web.

Acquiring Windows HTML Editing Tools:

Acquiring Macintosh Editing Tools:

Online Information about Web Browsers:

Newsgroups about the Web & Web Browsers:

  • news:comp.infosystems.www.announce for Announcements - Web-related announcements and general information - not too technical.

Mailing Lists on the topic of HTML:

To subscribe to one or more of the following lists, send an email message of the form request-address@w3.org with the word subscribe as the "subject" of the message (NOT the body). The request-address options are indicated below. Instructions for subscribing to World Wide Web email lists is available.

  • For technical information about HTML issues use:
    www­­request

HTML Validators:

  • Yahoo's Listing of HTML Validators & HTML Checkers

CGI & Forms:

The Common Gateway Interface (CGI) is a standard for interfacing external applications with information servers, such as HTTP or Web servers.

Sound & Video:

Graphics, Color, Compression:

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