Web sites are magazines. They are brochures. They are entertainment and they are informational. They are interactive. Designing Web sites is becoming easier and more efficient on a weekly basis. But in any area of design, and any other era of design , understanding present technological limitations leads to creative new solutions. The problems today is that the technology changes so fast, and nowhere is it changings as fast as in this paperless medium. Fortunately, the design and typography truisms that were applicable in the predesktop years, which remained true after personal computers became more common, are also true in web typography and design today. It is comforting to know that good design is still good design.
On-screen and print design share the same missions: clear communication. You are a typical Web user: do you surf looking for technical entertainment or for information, clearly and simply presenterd? Good design is clear, persuasive design, whether reflecting off paper or backlit on a screen.
Planning and designing a web site is a lot like creating a magazine. For example, like a magazine, a web site's visual identity should remain constant while its content changes. On the other hand, electronic documents aren't constrained to linear structuring the way magazines and other multipage printed documents are. You can be much more creative in the way you lead your visitors through or around your site. Unlike a magazine, page numbers are meaningless in a nonlinear environment. Other navigational aids must be used in their place.
Learning web page technology can seem just as impenetrable and frustrating as learning page layour software was several years ago. Nevertheless, guidelines exist for typography on the web just as they do on paper. After all, paper based typographic guidelines are applicable whether the design was produced in PageMaker, QuarkXPress or as a mechanical.
There are several good books available to learn how to make web pages and web sites. Designing a web page is a process that must be started on a sketch pad. It is a four step process, with the first three steps completed on paper.
1. Define the goals of your site. Describe the bits of information you want to include.
2. Make a branching diagram, or flowchart, to show page-to-page connections. The diagram describes how the site will be organized.
3. Sketch what each page will look like. List the hyperlinks you will build into each page. Begin creating and accumulating the elements necessary for each page.
4. Create the pages in FreeHand, Illustrator and PhotoShop and import into dreamweaver or other web publishing program as GIFS and Jpegs. Production issues at this stage include HTML tagging; making files small enough for efficient downloading, creating and testing hyperlinks; managing files in a directory structure on the server; and testing the site on all possible browsers.
Web design is not entirely under the designer's control. An equivalent situation in a printed magazine would be if readers could change the typeface used for the display type and text, thereby causing every piece of type to wrap differently. It would be quite a challenge to ensure that every reader would see a thoughtful, well planned layout of legible, easy to read type. So it is in Web design.