The worldwide web has given birth to a new profession - the website designer. What does a website designer do? How do you design a website that works? Mark Shufflebottom, lecturer in interactive media design at Bournemouth University and Catherine Tidnam, web manager of the Food & Drink Federation, give their views.
THE EARLY DAYS: The early days of website design were anarchic - with garish designs, numerous sites dedicated to people's cats (among other things), and problems of technology compatibility. Then standards were established and - a crucial step -- design and content were separated by means of CSS and XHTML files.
"THE GOLDEN RULES": But how do you set about designing a good website? What are the "golden rules"? The first is plan it out: you work out a list of everything on your site - the site map. Next you work on the graphics - how it's going to look.
REMEMBER THE AUDIENCE: Critical to everything the website designer does is the audience the site's aimed at. What might work for a young audience, might seem too jokey for an older audience. Sometimes the best design is the one you don't even notice...
TEST IT OUT: It's vital to try out the website - make sure it works before you launch it. But testing is an ongoing thing, too - otherwise you run the risk of complacency.
NAVIGATION: Buttons and links help us navigate around a website - but it must be obvious what lies behind the button or link. Standard controls are helpful, too.
FONTS AND PICTURES: Typography and the choice of fonts you can use are more limited on the web. And it's important not to overload your site with images.
THE HOME PAGE: Experts say the website has only two seconds to catch its visitor - so your home page must communicate instantly, directly.
WEBSITES IN ACTION: But how well designed are the famous-name websites? Amazon, Nike, eBay and Transport for London are assessed and their strengths and weaknesses analysed.
THE WEB 2.0 REVOLUTION: Web 2.0 is the next generation of websites. The technology hasn't really changed but now the emphasis is on sharing - sharing pictures, video, experience.
AND THE FUTURE? The broadband revolution means more convergence of radio, television, news and the web. Rss - really simple syndication - feeds have made possible "citizen journalism". We can now find out about what's going on in the world more quickly and directly than ever before.
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