Tenet Number One: Less is more.
Take a minimalist approach to page design. Employ few graphics except
where the visual contributes meaning. Too many sites move slowly and inefficiently,
wasting bandwidth and the time of visitors by loading up pages with chunky
graphics which act like sea anchors. In all too many cases, visiting sites
is akin to Waiting for Godot. (Beckett, 1952). Note quotation at
Number Two: Distinguish between menu pages and data pages.
Menu pages should help visitors move quickly to what they need. No fuss.
No bother. Graphics which are primarily decorative in purpose should be
kept to a minimum in order to speed people along. A menu page should be
logically constructed with well ordered lists of choices sufficiently
annotated to inform the user of "what they are getting into."
Deeper into the site where information is provided, graphics intensive
pages make sense if those graphics contribute significantly to understanding,
as in the case of maps, charts, photographs, etc. related to the topic.
Number Three: Maintain smoothly gliding formats.
Speed of movement is enhanced by repeating basic formats. If a page includes
a background GIF file, for example, speed is enhanced by using
such a handful of different backgrounds for major sections. Once the GIF
is loaded, it takes little time for it to do its job on each succeeding
page, but if the backgrounds keep changing, each change will require new
loadings, thereby slowing access speed. The same is true for small logs
and banners. If repeated, they do little damage to efficiency. Random
variation is the enemy of glide. It is also a violation of good esthetics.
In the effort to involve teams in page design, sites all too often end
up working slowly and looking "helter skelter."
Number Four: Provide visitors with enough information to make wise choices.
If these will consume mega-bandwidth, site designers should employ "thumbnails"
to help the user know something about the content along with verbal descriptions
of contents and file size.
Number Five: Create menus which are logically comprehensive and coherent,
employing headings which are meaningful.
A list should fully encompass the major categories of the material being
offered with labels which clearly indicate the kinds of information which
are contained at each of the next levels. Site designers should heed "truth
in labeling" standards. All too often, for example, sites will provide
an option such as "biology databases" which would suggest that
the resulting page will provide access to actual databases. Instead, it
is often just one more list of sites to be found somewhere else on the
WWW. In such a case, the label should read "biology databases elsewhere
on the WWW."
Number Six: Provide navigational tools in a systematically consistent
It is all too easy to get lost unless the visitor can always count on
finding certain buttons on every page located in the same spots. At a
minimum, every page should contain a "return to main page" button.
If the pages is fairly deep into the site, it should also contain a button
for return to the menu related to that section of material. In a collection
of photographs shot to illustrate the school's community, for example,
each page containing a photograph should provide a link back to the menu
page listing the 40 photographs.
Number Seven: Maintain consistent formats and avoid a hodge podge of random
Major sections of a site might each have variations in design, a different
background color and accompanying logo related to the topic or category,
for example. "Showboating" dozens of different fonts, graphics
and designs impedes performance and violates design standards. Consider
the possibility of setting format parameters and guidelines for such items
as student art work submitted for publication.
our art gallery should be saved in one of these three formats: a) 2 inches
(Height) by 2 inches (Width) b) 3 inches (Height) by 1.5 inches (Width).
c) b) 3 inches (Height) by 1.5 inches (Width).
watched dozens of students creating art for placement upon WWW pages,
I can report that few pause to consider the issue of size or how one might
frame a drawing/painting. They generally have little awareness of those
kinds of design issues which art teachers often try to teach in drawing
classes. In drawing from life, for example, the teacher often hands out
a piece of cardboard with a rectangular window cut through it. "Hold
this up to frame your picture," are the instructions. We need to
show students how to think and communicate visually. We need to help them
explore the ramifications of various design decisions. These should be
conscious and deliberate. Not random.
Number Eight: Include appropriate copyright notices on every page.
Even though it is very easy for users to copy materials on pages, intellectual
and artistic production is still covered by copyright as long as a notice
is posted. Writing, art work and photography of students belongs to them
and should not be published without written student and parental permission.
Visitors should not have rights to take and duplicate such materials without
negotiating with the producers of those materials. When copying is permitted
and expected, those permissions should be clearly stated where the notice
can be easily found.
Number Nine: Include snail and e-mail addresses , as well as contact names
and institutional affiliations on major menu pages.
Not all visitors will arrive at the site right at the original home page.
If the site has excellent resources, various programs like WebCrawler
might link people around the world to pages deep within the site. We often
end up on a page somewhere with no idea who the sponsoring group might
be or how to get to the top menu or how to contact the site administrators
for more information. While it is possible, sometimes, to strip away parts
of the URL address to find the top level, most new users will not know
how to do that.
Number Ten: Consider at least three years of site development before proceeding
with the first page.
Advanced planning and design dramatically improve the actual construction.
The design group should develop a "site plan" graphically mapping
out all of the sections which will eventually open to the public. As part
of this process, the group should try to predict in approximate terms
the total number of pages that will occupy each section as well as the
number of associated GIF files. This estimating will guide the group in
the creation of directories. Generally speaking, it is comfortable working
with up to 150-200 HTML and GIF files in each directory. With most HTML
programs like Netscape, life for the HTML page writer is made much simpler
by keeping files in large, relatively flat collections. Multiplying levels
of directories and folders adds to the addressing and tends to complicate
the linking of pages from one level to another.
Number Eleven: Employ thoughtful file-naming conventions to minimize the
need for sub-directories and folders.
It is much easier to find items if each file has been saved with names
which cluster all related files in groupings. If the naming of files is
done by "conventions" agreed upon by all members of the group,
it becomes much easier to share work. One convention might be to make
sure that the names of all files related to a section of the site (such
as a student art gallery) might begin with a letter such as "a."
A related convention might be to give related HTML and GIF files the same
names excepting their file extension. A third convention would be to place
a code "x" at the end of the file name if it is a "thumb
print" (very small) version of a GIF file. Employing these three
conventions, then, to name files associated with Sally's sailboat painting,
they would emerge thus:
group has planned eight major sections and assigned a corresponding letter
to the front of each file, the 86 files for the art gallery will group
together, the 46 files for the photo gallery will group together, and
the 468 files for student writing will group together so they are easily
found and they will allow for simple address writing when creating HTML
pages. Netscape is satisfied with just the file name being cited in the
URL as long as the linked file resides in the same directory as the linking
page. An example, then, would be: <IMG SRC="aboat.gif">.
If all GIF files were contained in a separate sub directory such as "images,"
it would addition of that name to the address: <IMG SRC="/images/aboat.gif">.
While it may not seem like much, the extra trouble of changing directories
when working with files and the extra typing and addressing can mount
up to be significant burdens.
Number Twelve: Balance breadth and depth when considering the structure
of menus and files.
When we visit some sites on the WWW, it seems as if the site is made up
of nothing but menus. You keep on clicking and clicking without ever seeming
to arrive at valuable information or data. Waiting to move from menu to
menu is very frustrating. This phenomenon results from providing too few
choices at each menu level. The structure is overly deep. On the other
hand, the top level should offer no more than 12-20 categories in order
to minimize the need for scrolling. If a page offers more than a hundred
menu items, it is too broad and should be condensed into categories.
Number Thirteen: When linking to other WWW locations , strip away time-wasting
top levels of those sites, provide addresses which take users directly
to good information and include thorough annotations explaining what can
be found at those locations.
One of least helpful phenomena to arise with the rapid expansion of the
WWW is the proliferation of lists and lists of lists which in turn take
you to other lists of lists. "Where's the beef?" one might legitimately
inquire. Simply copying long lists of sites (often lifted from other people's
lists) and pasting them into school sites sets up users for time-wasting
wandering and much frustration. By visiting sites and identifying the
best items, those can be listed with links rather than the site's home
page. This step eliminates thousands of wasted page openings.
Number Fourteen: Beware of casual endorsements.
Before an item is listed as a worthwhile site, a staff member should have
visited the site to verify that the site and its information are both
developmentally appropriate and relevant to the district curriculum. The
inclusion of items on a list implies endorsement.
Number Fifteen: Include disclaimers whenever individuals may be expressing
personal opinions not those of the school or the school district.
It is standard procedure for publishers to issue such disclaimers so the
institution is not unfairly associated with potentially controversial
Number Sixteen: Do not post identifying information and photographs of
Protect your students from those who cruise the WWW with evil motives.
Number Seventeen: Have a staff committee review all materials before publishing
on the WWW.
Publishing brings legal responsibilities. Students and others providing
content for your site may not have the judgment to know what personal
material is appropriate and what material might be libelous and inspire
liability suits of one kind or another. The committee should be able to
accept or refuse submissions without providing more explanation than a
poetry magazine rejecting a poem . . . "This material does not meet
our needs at this time." While it would be nice to provide explanations,
explanations can fuel lawsuits about freedom of speech. When reviewing
parental submissions for a school virtual museum, for example, an individual
might submit an anti-Semitic tirade. If the staff rejected the piece with
the explanation that the content is offensive, a lawsuit might swiftly
Number Eighteen: Avoid providing homepages for individuals.
For reasons similar those given in the previous tenet, school districts
who allow students and staff to maintain and publish their own homepages
are opening themselves to great legal risk and the possibility that the
district will be publishing material which reflects badly upon the organization.
The rapid growth of commercial providers offers the opportunity for individuals
to conduct such publishing independent from the school district. Drawing
the line early will make it unnecessary to clean up messes later and will
protect school staff from censoring or policing such sites.
the WWW is fairly new and there are few guidelines available to follow,
well meaning site inventors can easily come up against some very thorny
and difficult issues. The tenets listed above will probably shift as school
experience with the WWW grows, but they may serve well as an approach
to shape the first stages of development.
listed above are excerpted with permission from "Net Profit in
a Post Modem World", by Jamie McKenzie (http://www.fromnowon.org).
They may be copied for school district and non-profit use only as long
as the source is cited.