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Designer's Corner

Being Cool By Design There are so many factors that a designer must take into consideration with so many possible permutations of browsers, platforms, and technologies available. Good Web design has become somewhat akin to the delicate act of walking the high wire. Tempting as it is, there's no point in drawing up a list of specific do's and don'ts. On the one hand, it would lead to a pervasive homogeneity of look and expression from one site to the next; while on the other hand, there are basic "rules of grammar" for Web site design. The actual language is impossible to prescribe or regulate. One way of simplifying the complexity of good Web design is to think of the three basic elements of Web design forming an equilateral triangle: great graphics; a quick download; and ease of navigation. Each of these may have the strength to work individually. For example, a user may be so taken by good graphics that she would endure a slow download and the occasional dead link. Or she might be able to speed through a site in search of information, while ignoring the graphics to find what she's seeking. But why put up with these compromises, when with due consideration--and striking a delicate balance--you can invoke the cry of the Three Musketeers..."all for one and one for all." In addition, it's important to remember that the Web is a new kind of non-linear medium. Some sites choose to stick close to a linear trajectory that moves the visitor from point A to B, but the best sites exploit the multi-directional possibilities of the medium to the max, exploring all the points of interest along the way. Expectations ran high earlier this year for the debut of Slate (www.slate.com), Microsoft's first venture into the world of webzines. Concern had been generated by reports that editor Michael Kinsley had some "heretical ideas." Slate, for Kinsley's watch, would be on the Web, but it would not embrace it or even cater to those already on the Web. As the launch drew nearer, designers and developers were holding their breath for what was to come. Some were concerned that whatever direction the Microsoft armies took, the rest of us would be inevitably drawn along in their wake. When the site launched, the initial download time was excruciating. The designers had employed one large table to organize all the information. Now it's true that tables have become the designer's best friend, in that they afford the most control within the limited structure of HTML. But one pays a price for this, because the information will not appear until the document reaches the end </table> tag. The designers hastily tried to remedy the problem by chopping the table into a number of smaller units.


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