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Introduction to Web Design
Spring 2011

Introduction

Although web sites come in many different forms, most take one of three formats, and each of these formats is used in different ways. Understanding how these ways are different, how they function and how design principles can fail if misapplied helps in knowing the how to best design a particular site. Each asks for a particular set of principles and a focus on what problems are being solved. Much bad web design is based on trying to apply an idea that works for one form to another where it doesn't - for instance, density to extended text.

These are the three:

1. A story - Extended text, as is found in many online newspapers, blog entries and news magazines. Because these are read like essays, many of the traditional guides for print typography can be applied effectively to stories and other narratives - like font size, line length, line height and white space.

2. A collection - Information presented as tabular data - like tables and related formats. They can be organized a number of ways and combinations of these ways, - by alphabet, number, location, kind, time or sequence and in an order of relationships, a hierarchy. ‘Density is the new whitespace.’ Ellen Lupton's advice in Thinking with Type, p. 172, is good advice for on line collections (as it is in print collections - dictionaries, catalogues, want ads and phone directories) because they are scanned for a particular bit or bits of information, not read over a period of time. Efficient (and dense) ways of organizing information are at the center of their usefulness.

3. A visual - Single message sites, like ads, maps, phtographs, gateways and videos. These are like a snapshot, an aphorism or a doorway - words or images or a function taken in quickly, at a glance. They make a point, but make it as an image, not as tale told over time or as a grid filled with information.

This course will also be focused on information architecture and standards-based accessible web design, which means our work will present information clearly and succinctly, use bandwidth as efficiently as possible and be available to everyone, regardless of their physical or technological limitations. As well as making sure our work can reach the largest possible audience in the most responsible way, we will look at how well designed and structured sites can be rich and varied visually and embrace a wide range of content.

The best software for designing “what you see is what you get” Web sites is Dreamweaver, but you may use a text editor, if you like to hand code. Both are available on all the lab computers. Please do not use Frontpage or MS Word, they do not generate standards-based markup and make most sites twice a large as they need to be. The primary software for working with images you will using are Photoshop and Illustrator.

The software we are using is the industry standard and although there is other software that can do many of the same jobs, I encourage you to use these so you will be familiar with the most widely used tools for web design.

Required texts:

HTML, XHTML & CSS, Sixth Edition, Visual QuickStart Guide Elizabeth Castro, ISBN 0-321-43084-0 (Much of the material from this book, plus extras, is available on line at :
http://www.cookwood.com/html6ed/contents/)

CSS Pocket Reference: Visual Presentation for the Web by Eric A. Meyer, ISBN 0-5965-1505-7

(Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 3nd Edition, by Eric Meyer is available in Safari, a source for electronic documents, available on the E-Resources list, under the heading Recent Books in the Sciences, Technology, & Medicine) Using Readability makes the use of the online text resources much easier.

Grading policy

Your grade for the course will be primarily based on the quality of your individual work on your personal sites and contributions to class discussion. You will have a one week grace period after the work is due to turn it in with no reduction in grade, every week after that will mean a reduction of one grade.

Each individual assignment receive a grade within a week after it is submitted, if it posted before the end of the grace period.

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception and is an educational objective of this institution. Academic dishonesty, includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating of information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonestly by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students.


INSTRUCTOR: JERROLD MADDOX
THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY