The introduction of the internet has had a huge impact on most peoples lives, a new source of information and communication, and for businesses, a new area of advertising, marketing and a virtual expansion of the shop floor.
With the ever changing requirements of businesses and with all the competition that the global network forces on the market, becoming a part of the ‘internet revolution’ and having a web site that reflects the services and calibre of a business, has become paramount for most companies. Because technology is improving all of the time, the competition has become fierce and the challenge for the graphic designer to use traditional design practices in a digital environment to create attractive and functional web sites has also become competitive.
‘In the early days of the internet, web page construction was a relatively simple process. there was only one browser for viewing pages, and the constraints of the medium meant that the placement of small images in relation to text was the only consideration.”
As with designing for print, the graphic designers role is to create web pages with the appropriate visual form. Fundamentally the use of colour, text and imagery stay the same, but there is more to web site design than this.
A designer must understand the possibilities and limitations of web design as well as the use of interactivity, where pages can respond to the viewers actions. All web publishing is intended to be viewed on screen. This means that the final outcome of the design may be altered slightly by the viewer, depending on which browser they use or by the set up or preferences they may have chosen for their computer. This becomes a new challenge for the designer because they must adapt to make the best of this environment.
The most common factors that can affect the way that a web page is viewed are monitor resolutions and the size of the browser window, there are also differences in the way displays are viewed on a Macintosh and on a PC. This becomes a crucial factor when we consider that ‘most designers work on Macs and over 90% of web surfers use a PC’.
Another key difference between design for print and design for screen, is that most print designs, i.e.. books and magazines are oriented for portrait formats, in contrast, computer monitors are landscape oriented devices. This means that many existing print designs do not directly translate into good web page designs. Although tall web pages can be scrolled, this is a poor answer to a design problem.
A designer must be able to carefully plan and create a structured page navigation system and must understand the limitations of their works intended audiences, not just the possibilities.
Interactivity is a key element of any web site. A designers role is to make the site dynamic and create an environment that encourages the user to stay and explore areas of the site that provide more information. Web designers must fully understand the concepts of interaction in order to use them appropriately.
The simplest form of interaction is a clickable hypertext link, this provides access to a new page by clicking on the text item displayed on screen. A designer may wish to make link items more interesting by using rollover buttons. These work the same way as text links, but are more visual and provide more feedback to the viewer so it is clear that the item is definitely a clickable link. By using a second ‘rollover’ image, these buttons may appear to change colour, lighten up or become depressed. Whichever form of interaction a designer chooses to use, the key goal is to produce a functional web site that is aesthetically pleasing and inviting to a universal audience.
A designer may be called to work upon a varied range of web sites, ranging from educational, cultural and non profit making organisations to commercial and financial companies. Many companies who entered the ‘cyber market-place’ early are aware that their original web presence may be out dated and require a fresh look.
Due to new technology which now offers greater functionality and scope to web sites, the graphic designer can find challenging and varied prospects within the world of internet design.
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