Today, the average user will log-on to the Internet only when they require specific information. Companies have had to adjust in a hurry to provide this ever-increasing number of users with exactly what they are looking for in the most efficient manner. In short, the Internet has quickly turned from a "cool amusement park" to the biggest reference library on this planet.
As the interest level of the typical Internet user wanes with greater exposure, the impatience level increases in proportion. After the first month or so, Internet use drops and stabilizes. At this point, the user's relationship with the Internet becomes the same as that with a toaster - strictly a tool which enables one to achieve a goal more efficiently.
Businesses in the process of designing a web site have to realize that this is in fact the audience they will most likely be dealing with. Before firms even get started on the actual design of the web site, they must first ask themselves what exactly it is that they hope to achieve.
Are they going to be promoting themselves? Are they going to be providing company information for customers or potential investors? Are they planning on doing actual sales of their product over the Internet? Who is their target market? Which countries do they expect to have the greatest response from? These are questions that need to be asked as well as answered in order to create a foundation on which to begin building the web site.
Many new developments have occurred in the past few years in the realm of web-page design. As a result, web designers have modified their pages to make use of this new technology. Two years ago it was "frames," last year it was "animated graphics," and this year it is "JAVA."
Back to the basics
Whatever the trend-du-jour, companies always seem to revert to the "basics" after a few months. This proves the underlying theme of this whole topic - that most people care only about the information itself and not the manner in which it is presented.
Many people use the "Graphics Off" function on their web-browsers. So, one has to keep in mind that any information presented in the form of graphics such as buttons or image maps, must also be included in text form. There is nothing more frustrating to these users than a whole page of graphics (that they have turned off) and nothing else.
When including graphics, keep them small and simple. For photographs and other graphics incorporating more than 256 colors, "thumbnails" should be linked to the full-sized graphic. This way, the graphic can be viewed in its entirety when desired. A good rule-of-thumb is to design the web site as if for an Internet user with low-end computer hardware and an extremely slow connection. This way no one is alienated and frustration is kept to a minimum.
Probably the most important feature of a web site is its "ease of navigation." The main page should be like a "Table of Contents" that leads the reader to the information he or she is looking for. Once there, readers must be able to get back to the main page with equal ease. One must remember that the average user is visiting the site to find what they are looking for and leave as soon as they find it. The faster they can accomplish this, the happier they will be.
BANDWIDTH- A term used when referring to the "size of connection to the Internet." Also known as "pipeline," bandwidth determines the rate at which users are able to transfer data over the Internet via their Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
BAUD RATE- The speed at which modems can communicate with each other, reported in bits per second (or bps). Today, most users of the Internet have modems rated at 28800 bps (or 28.8 kbps) and greater.
DOMAIN NAME- A name registered with the appropriate agency that identifies a server on the Internet. It is composed of a prefix and suffix and is separated by a period (known as "dot"). The suffix indicates the agency responsible for registration (eg. "mydomainname.com" or "firma.sk").
DOWNLOAD- The act of transferring data over communication lines to one's own computer through a modem. This data can be in the form of text, graphics, or programs.
E-MAIL- (Electronic Mail). Letters that are mailed by way of the Internet (or similar computer network). Files such as formatted text, graphics, and even programs can be attached to e-mail and sent together.
E-MAIL ADDRESS- Like the street address on an envelope, e-mail requires the sender to know the e-mail Address of the person they are mailing to. On the Internet, this address is usually in the form of a "firstname.lastname@example.org."
FTP- (File Transfer Protocol) FTP enables the transfer of files between two computers over the Internet. With FTP, one can either download files from an FTP server or upload files to a WWW Server (in the case of designing Web Sites).
HTML- (Hyper Text Markup Language) The programming language used to create web sites. HTML enables the web designer to link their own document to other documents (be they on their own or to another's site).
ISP- (Internet Service Provider) The ISP allows you to connect to the Internet by dialing up their telephone number and connecting to one of their many modems.
JAVA- A cross-platform programming language designed for the Internet by Sun Microsystems. Programs written in Java Script can be run on DOS, Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, and other various operating systems.
MODEM- The hardware component that enables a computer to communicate with other computers over ordinary analog telephone lines. (Modem stands for "modulate/demodulate")
SERVER- The name given to a computer that is dedicated to providing or "serving" data via the Internet. An FTP Server provides access to files available for downloading, while a WWW Server provides the documents and graphics when requested by the Web Browser.
VIRTUAL WEB HOSTING- The ability to use a Domain Name as a Web Site Address without having to have a WWW Server permanently connected to the Internet. The Web Site Address would then be "www.yourwebsite.com" instead of "www.yourISP.com/yourwebsite". Most ISPs will provide this service for a fee.
WEB BROWSER- The software that enables the viewing of HTML documents (or Web Pages). Right now, the two most popular Web Browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft's Explorer.
WEBSITE ADDRESS- Enables the Web Browser to locate a particular Web Site. Usually noted in the form "www.website.com" or "www.ISPdomainname.com/website." It is recommended for businesses to register a Domain Name in the event of future changes with ISPs.
Peter Floyd has been creating web pages for businesses for over two years.
14. Aug 1997 at 0:00 | Peter Floyd