Graphical Design ]
Everyone has an opinion about the appropriate look, feel, and style of
graphical content, and many people have opinions about the technical and
usability ramifications of such items as file size, colour availability,
required plug-ins, browser compatibilities etc. It is probable that given
the number of possible reasons for putting a web site together, at least
one implementation exists to support any opinion regarding design.
you're going on-line to introduce a new high-end snowboard, with a target
buyer demographic of affluent 14-23 year olds, then you can bet there
will be some level of acceptance (and expectation) regarding your web
pages' demands for the latest plug-ins. Streaming video Macromedia Flash,
and a requirement for a fairly modern connection bandwidth may even be
your market demographic suggests less technological currency (supply your
own example or assume your visitors range across a wide span of categories)
you will probably turn some people away if you have slow loading pages,
cryptic user navigation tools, browser incompatibilities, or reliance
on scripts that don't work for them.
You have your content, a site map, a working model of the way the pages
will operate, and some convictions about colour, style, and technical
considerations. Now you need to either hire a graphical designer or do
it yourself. If you're going to do it yourself at least do yourself the
favour of stipulating for yourself the same terms that you would have
had to generate for the designer, i.e. make a contract with yourself.
Beyond the consideration of how your site will look and operate, you
have to think about how you will maintain it. If you vary formatting from
page to page, base navigation on intricate client-side image maps, or
generate critically spaced groups of text, you will have a tougher time
making changes and additions to your site later on (more on that in the
- I mentioned earlier that you should always provide an easy route to
the home page and consider linking back to originating pages. This often
gets implemented with a set of custom designed arrows and icons. When
carefully considered and properly executed such graphical items can
be very useful, and will can make an attractive differences. Remember
that a blue underlined word will for some time to come be universally
recognized as a link, but a group of poorly designed icons with non-intuitive
purpose will never be recognized.
- Consider the use of style sheets in order to keep the body text straightforward.
Inline formatting such as "FONT SIZE" tags or physical styles like "BOLD"
can cause search engines' automatic indexing and text analysis programs
to have a difficult time analyzing your content (and can even cause
content to be skipped). They also add unnecessary bytes to the download
- The use of frames can cause problems with navigation and with search
engine indexing and so should be carefully considered regarding their
added value. See the article On
Frames for more discussion of this topic.
- When a <table> is used to position graphics or text, the browser
waits until all of the table is received before it displays any of it.
This has large implications if the body contains either long text, large
graphics, or relies on processing such as queries to a database or scripting.
(You may have noticed that this page is laid out in a table. I figured
that anyone seriously interested in designing and hosting their own
web site probably has both a reasonably fast connection and a recent
Case Study Continued - Dave's Graphic Decisions
Dave has decided to hire a graphic designer to aid in the design of
his site, for both navigability and look and feel. Dave expects to be
revising some of his paper documents (invoice, business cards etc.)
and needs consistency to be included from the start. He makes these
future plans clear to the designer (even though he's going to wait a
little while before producing them).
In order to help guide the designer, Dave lays out some basic requirements,
and explains that an agreement must be reached on these items such that
no design work contravenes them. Some of Dave's requirements might include:
No Frames or Java - Dave can't afford to build
alternate content sites for browsers not supporting them, and wants
better search engine visibility (see the article On
- Don't make the pages one big table, I'm concerned with download
times and want the user to be viewing some of my text as the pictures
- Keep any custom link colours similar to the defaults, both to maintain
a standard interface, and in case the user suppresses background graphics
or overrides the colours.
- Keep pages to a total of approximately 40-50 kilobytes or less,
except in the gallery section of my arrangement portfolio (as people
probably expect a bit of a slowdown there).
- Don't insert a lot of overriding <font> tags, as Dave wants
to be able to handle his own updates to content. (Style sheets are