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S&A Resource Library

(Web Info Newsletter for The Rest of Us!)

CONZZ_ARCHIVES Volume 2, Number 1 -- Nov. 29, 2002

        PLEASE NOTE: It's a-l-i-v-e!
        FEATURED ARTICLE: Web Design Basics... Who knew?
        OUTWARD BOUND: Links of Interest



This newsletter is [still] an attempt to familiarize the non-techies amongst us with Web design, Web development, and Web-based information deployment. We hope you will find it useful and infused with nuggets of digestible technology — "Techno McNuggets."

Your feedback is always welcome and encouraged. Please, send any questions or ideas for future articles to:

We'll do our best to address your questions and concerns in future editions.

Previous editions of CONZZ_ARCHIVES can be found at:

If you know of someone, a friend, associate, or fellow employee that you would like to add to the newsletter mailing list, please forward this email to them and/or send their email address to:

If you would prefer not to receive this newsletter, please use the contact info at the end of this text.

Thank you and we hope you find this newsletter informative, or at least, entertaining.

Connie Seidel, Editor & Sr. Web Developer, Seidel & Associates

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PLEASE NOTE: It's a-l-i-v-e!

Sorry to the folks out there that may, in fact, have looked forward to coming issues of CONZZ_ARCHIVES. I took quite a sabatical from the task of writing these newsletters. But, with a somewhat different plan for publishing (I'm temporarily forgoing the monthly email posting of the issues in favor of simple Web site deployment), I'm back to production — at a pace that's reasonable!

You may notice that this issue's feature article is not the continuation promised in the last issue (Search Strategies, Part I). Believe it or not, I am researching the best way to provide more, quality information regarding search engine strategies. It's just taking a lot longer than I thought it would to come up with recommendations I can put into writing for S&A's particular client niche — that being organizations on a tight budget that want and need good representation in the popular search engines and indexes — just not at the expense of their funding, integrity and/or their clients and communities.

You may also have noticed that in the 12 months since that last article, Google has become the search engine of choice, leaving the others in the dust. Along with this trend are numerous changes in how the popular search engines go about indexing, "loading" and prioritizing their search results. And, just as I'm about to write something for you to sink your teeth into, the playing field changes yet again. So, I stop the presses instead of sending out misinformation to you.

For those on a fast track in need of search engine optimization, I recommend opting in to what I think is the best newsletter dealing with the subject written by someone (Jill Whalen) who is expert in the field and very capable of helping the techno-challenged comprehend this incredibly confusing subject. Just point your browser to and sign up.

Now, on to the show, as they say. This issue's feature article will deal with a trend I have identified amongst all strata of new Web design/development projects... small to large, low cost to high. It discusses the question of just what is Web design and why do so many "designers" fail the pursuit of quality Web site presentation?

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FEATURED ARTICLE: Web Design Basics... Who knew?

Today, as a Web designer, I and Seidel & Associates are faced with competition from every conceivable area of the design world, professional, amateur, experienced, beginner. While competition is a good (and welcome) thing, we're seeing a disturbing trend that we feel does not serve our clients or would-be clients. The intricacies of designing for computer screens, operating systems and browser software is not a typical area of consideration newbie Web site owners take into account when conceptualizing their new Internet "roadside attraction." Nor is it a well understood area of design consideration taken into account by most of the new "Web designer" population.

As a professional Web design and development shop we find this less the case for larger corporate clients than for the smaller nonprofit and commercial clients. In too many eyes, design is design is design, yet the truth of the matter is far from that.

Why there is a sudden "bloom" of less-than-experienced Web designers can be found in simple economics.

First, A Dot-Com Economics Lesson
Who isn't familiar now with the "dot.dust" era — you know, the 6-12 month period wherein we saw dot coms that were previously riding high on the technology market of the late '90s and early 2000 fall to ruin during late 2000 and early 2001? This meant a substantial rise in the numbers of unemployed. Among the hardest hit were the Internet developers and other related Web personnel, many of which turned to "Web designer" as their new vocation.

A few of these newly unemployed designers were actually experienced and talented professionals, but the lion's share were hoping to catch the occasional independent contract to see them through rough times. The running joke during 2001-2002 was that you couldn't find anyone at a party or gathering that didn't add Web design to their skills list.

Yet another area hard hit by a rapidly slowing economy is the graphic design industry. Professional ad graphics and corporate identity design isn't cheap! So to capture new projects, more and more print graphics houses began peddling their abilities in the Web design space as well, making graphic designers Web designers but without the necessary background experience in creating either visual environments for computer screens or user interfaces and information architectures.

Less thought of, but equally important during this economic slump and down-time for designer/developers is the proliferation of software packages produced to "make designing Web sites so simple even a child can do it."

So now, here's our recipe for a questionable Web design stew:

  • a glut of Web personnel used to earning very high wages offering their services as Web designers,
  • relatively inexpensive and easy to learn software on store shelves being pushed by big budget marketing campaigns telling us anyone can now build Web sites,
  • a slow down in ad and collateral design expenditures
  • an economy that shrunk budgets for Web projects from thousands to hundreds of dollars, or less, and
  • a general "wait and see" attitude among the would be employers of professional design personnel.

So you're probably thinking this is a good thing for organizations needing Web sites, right? Well, before making that assumption let's scratch the surface of this a little deeper.

Get The Software and You're a Web Designer
Uh-huh! Is that so? Well, most of the professionals in the Web design industry I know learned their craft by fixing Web sites built by these software packages, or code generators.

Don't get me wrong, they've come a long way. The DreamWeavers, the GoLives... they do get better and better with each new version. And, in the hands of a professional, they can be a great tool. But, the marketing message that goes with this software is always "use our product and you'll never have to touch a piece of code in the process of designing your Web site." While that is certainly a possibility with these packages, software a designer does not make!

"What you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) is the promise of the code generator programs. By providing a pane for the designer to drag and drop and move around bits and pieces of their page layout, the underlying code of the program attempts to translate every little nuance of every little piece into HTML code. This would be a daunting task for any piece of software, even if it were just attempting to translate a visual layout to a single browser version. But it's a virtually impossible task for the software to second guess how every browser version will treat code for more complicated and visually rich designs.

This can be a way to build simple Web pages with little visual complexity, or to quickly prototype a Web site design. But any more complex site, and especially any site utilizing "back-end" systems and databases, like most e-commerce sites, will require some serious programming experience, as well as user interface expertise generally not found in the graphic design world.

The most common difficulty we find in working with designers who aren't experienced in Web design is their lack of understanding as to why their layout looks so different when rendered by a browser on a computer screen. Not to denigrate the graphics professionals, but the minutia of character kerning, font face point sizes and never-before-seen-in-nature colors is lost on Web browsers and their users just looking for an intuitive, logical user interface... that works!

Inches vs. Pixels vs. Resolution vs. What-You-See!
Most graphics people work in layout programs like Quark, PageMaker, Illustrator. For the most part these programs don't translate well to Web pages for the very reasons we like to use them most... their vectoring abilities, small file size, and clean-edge printing. But what these graphics people forget is the Web is rendered at 72dpi, and you can't split pixels. So, an image file created to be rendered by a printer at 600dpi or more, is going to suffer when rendered as a GIF or JPEG at 72dpi. This is why the Web design world depends on rastor imaging programs like PhotoShop, ImageReady, FireWorks or the like to build the graphic building blocks of Web pages.

Another technology incorporated into Flash allows for vectoring techniques that translate well into 72dpi-capable image files and has become very popular. With this software technology, animation, sound, movies and scripting can be incorporated into Web pages without the usual download you might expect from other file types. But the final rendering by your browser and monitor are still going to be at 72dpi.

So, Where Are We At With All This Techno-babble?
Web design has come a long ways since it's early days and version 1, 2 and 3 browsers. JavaScript, Flash, Cascading Style Sheets, Dynamic HTML, back-end processing, server-side includes, and on and on and on. Every quarter new technologies beg to be reviewed and made the new standard for Web presentation.

But, beyond the heavy lifting that the true programmers provide in terms of back-end systems, I look to the big boys on the Web for guidance. Companies like IBM, Amazon, EBay, Adobe, to name just a few, have far greater budgets to spend and much deeper need to get it all right than most. When I see sites like these stepping back to the basics of good design and straight-out Web deployment, less use of streaming bells and whistles, rock 'n roll, DHTML goodies, etc., I think it's worth taking note.

It's also worth taking the time to really assess who your audience is and what the message you're really trying to get out is. If you're a local charity or nonprofit trying to maintain the attention of a traditional donor base, rave may not be in a design vocabulary that'll achieve success for you. On the other hand, if you're in a ska band and want to promote your latest CD, then rave is your best friend.

OK, Designers Are Cheap and Plentiful Now, So Where's the Problem?
The problem here is really an issue of economics... again. For the mean average organization needing to get a Web site up and running, budget is the most common concept dealt with. Shortcuts to good Web design and development used by inexperienced designers will cost far more down the road than the invoiced amount for building your site. As your user base calls or emails with questions about why your site doesn't display on their browser, or why your contact form doesn't work, or why they can't see images and text about your upcoming campaign, you'll be scrambling (that translates as money, right?) to get the thing fixed or rebuilt.

If you're working with a designer on an hourly contract (most are!), design minutia may make a pretty screen shot, but it comes with a hefty price. Hours quickly pass as the designer prepares images for your site, getting them just so... at 1024x768 screen resolution — only to find out the page design doesn't fit within the 800 pixel wide resolution most computer users have their monitors set to. As the owner of the Web site paying by the hour for design and development, you're not going to be a happy camper when your lean budget is eaten up by hours of "tweaking" typefaces, colors and tracking values.

The point of your budget is to build a Web site so your community and clients can access what you have to offer on line. If you have the luxury of ample dollars to throw at experimentation, wonderful! But if you're like most organizations in today's economy, you're going to appreciate that experienced, professional Web designer that can help you navigate through your site project to a successful culmination... even if his or her hourly fees sounded high at first.

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OUTWARD BOUND: Links of Interest

Related to This Article
Web Style Guide, 2nd Ed. and
By Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton, this online presentation of the published book (avalailable through is the premier treatise on Web design basics and then some. This book covers everything from editorial style, typography, CSS and multimedia.

New S&A sites
Local Consultancy in Northwest Arkansas Go Online
Here's an example of a simple, low-cost, well-planned site for a group of consultants that has the capacity to grow with their business.
Informational site for Tomales Bay
Another example of a well defined, well designed, and easy to use site for a nonprofit who's purpose is to deploy basic use information to the public regarding a recreational use area.

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Connie Seidel, Seidel & Assoc., and