21 January, 2009
1. Semantic Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee's vision for a Semantic Web has been The Next Big Thing for a long time now. Indeed it's become almost mythical, like Moby Dick. In a nutshell, the Semantic Web is about machines talking to machines. It's about making the Web more 'intelligent', or as Berners-Lee himself described it: computers "analyzing all the data on the Web ‚Äì the content, links, and transactions between people and computers." At other times, Berners-Lee has described it as "the application of weblike design to data" - for example designing for re-use of information. As Alex Iskold wrote in The Road to the Semantic Web, the core idea of the Semantic Web is to create the meta data describing data, which will enable computers to process the meaning of things. Once computers are equipped with semantics, they will be capable of solving complex semantical optimization problems. So when will the Semantic Web arrive? The building blocks are here already: RDF, OWL, microformats are a few of them. But as Alex noted in his post, it will take some time to annotate the world's information and then to capture personal information in the right way. Some companies, such as Hakia and Powerset and Alex's own AdaptiveBlue, are actively trying to implement the Semantic Web. So we are getting close, but we are probably a few years off still before the big promise of the Semantic Web is fulfilled. Semantic Web pic by dullhunk
2. Artificial Intelligence
Possibly the ultimate Next Big Thing in the history of computing, AI has been the dream of computer scientists since 1950 - when Alan Turing introduced the Turing test to test a machine's capability to participate in human-like conversation. In the context of the Web, AI means making intelligent machines. In that sense, it has some things in common with the Semantic Web vision. We've only begun to scratch the surface of AI on the Web. Amazon.com has attempted to introduce aspects of AI with Mechanical Turk, their task management service. It enables computer programs to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks which computers are unable to do. Since its launch on 2 November 2005, Mechanical Turk has gradually built up a following - there is a forum for "Turkers" called Turker Nation, which appears to have light-to-medium level patronage. However we reported in January that Mturk isn't being used as much as the initial hype period in Nov-Dec 05. Nevertheless, AI has a lot of promise on the Web. AI techniques are being used in "search 2.0" companies like Hakia and Powerset. Numenta is an exciting new company by tech legend Jeff Hawkins, which is attempting to build a new, brain-like computing paradigm - with neural networks and cellular automata. In english this means that Numenta is trying to enable computers to tackle problems that come easy to us humans, like recognizing faces or seeing patterns in music. But since computers are much faster than humans when it comes to computation, we hope that new frontiers will be broken - enabling us to solve the problems that were unreachable before.
3. Virtual Worlds
Second Life gets a lot of mainstream media attention as a future Web system. But at a recent Supernova panel that Sean Ammirati attended, the discussion touched on many other virtual world opportunities. The following graphic summarizes it well: Looking at Korea as an example, as the 'young generation' grows up and infrastructure is built out, virtual worlds will become a vibrant market all over the world over the next 10 years. It's not just about digital life, but also making our real life more digital. As Alex Iskold explained, on one hand we have the rapid rise of Second Life and other virtual worlds. On the other we are beginning to annotate our planet with digital information, via technologies like Google Earth.
Mobile Web is another Next Big Thing on slow boil. It's already big in parts of Asia and Europe, and it received a kick in the US market this year with the release of Apple's iPhone. This is just the beginning. In 10 years time there will be many more location-aware services available via mobile devices; such as getting personalized shopping offers as you walk through your local mall, or getting map directions while driving your car, or hooking up with your friends on a Friday night. Look for the big Internet companies like Yahoo and Google to become key mobile portals, alongside the mobile operators. Companies like Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, Palm, Blackberry and Microsoft have been active in the Mobile Web for years now, but one of the main issues with Mobile Web has always been usability. The iPhone has a revolutionary UI that makes it easier for users to browse the Web, using zooming, pinching and other methods. Also, as Alex Iskold noted, the iPhone is a strategy that may expand Apple's sphere of influence, from web browsing to social networking and even possibly search. So even despite the iPhone hype, in the US at least (and probably other countries when it arrives) the iPhone will probably be seen in 10 years time as the breakthrough Mobile Web device.
5. Attention Economy
The Attention Economy is a marketplace where consumers agree to receive services in exchange for their attention. Examples include personalized news, personalized search, alerts and recommendations to buy. The Attention Economy is about the consumer having choice - they get to choose where their attention is 'spent'. Another key ingredient in the attention game is relevancy. As long as the consumer sees relevant content, he/she is going to stick around - and that creates more opportunities to sell. Expect to see this concept become more important to the Web's economy over the next decade. We're already seeing it with the likes of Amazon and Netflix, but there is a lot more opportunity yet to explore from startups.
6. Web Sites as Web Services
Alex Iskold wrote in March that as more and more of the Web is becoming remixable, the entire system is turning into both a platform and the database. Major web sites are going to be transformed into web services - and will effectively expose their information to the world. Such transformations are never smooth - e.g. scalability is a big issue and legal aspects are never simple. But, said Alex, it is not a question of if web sites become web services, but when and how.
The transformation will happen in one of two ways. Some web sites will follow the example of Amazon, del.icio.us and Flickr and will offer their information via a REST API. Others will try to keep their information proprietary, but it will be opened via mashups created using services like Dapper, Teqlo and Yahoo! Pipes. The net effect will be that unstructured information will give way to structured information - paving the road to more intelligent computing.
Note that we can also see this trend play out currently with widgets and especially Facebook in 2007. Perhaps in 10 years time the web services landscape will be much more open, because the 'walled garden' problem is still with us in 2007.
7. Online Video / Internet TV
This is a trend that has already exploded on the Web - but you still get the sense there's a lot more to come yet. In October 2006 Google acquired the hottest online video property on the planet, YouTube. Later on that same month, news came out that the founders of Kazaa and Skype were building an Internet TV service, nicknamed The Venice Project (later named Joost). In 2007, YouTube continues to dominate. Meanwhile Internet TV services are slowly getting off the ground.
Our network blog last100 has an excellent overview of the current Internet TV landscape, with reviews of 8 Internet TV apps. Read/WriteWeb's Josh Catone also reviewed 3 of them - Joost, Babelgum, Zattoo.
It's fair to say that in 10 years time, Internet TV will be totally different to what it is today. Higher quality pictures, more powerful streaming, personalization, sharing, and much more - it's all coming over the next decade. Perhaps the big question is: how will the current mainstream TV networks (NBC, CNN, etc) adapt?
8. Rich Internet Apps
As the current trend of hybrid web/desktop apps continues, expect to see RIA (rich internet apps) continue to increase in use and functionality. Adobe's AIR platform (Adobe Integrated Runtime) is one of the leaders, along with Microsoft with its Windows Presentation Foundation. Also in the mix is Laszlo with its open source OpenLaszlo platform and there are several other startups offering RIA platforms. Let's not forget also that Ajax is generally considered to be an RIA - it remains to be seen though how long Ajax lasts, or whether there will be a '2.0'.
As Ryan Stewart wrote for Read/WriteWeb back in April 2006 (well before he joined Adobe), "Rich Internet Apps allow sophisticated effects and transitions that are important in keeping the user engaged. This means developers will be able to take the amazing changes in the Web for granted and start focusing on a flawless experience for the users. It is going to be an exciting time for anyone involved in building the new Web, because the interfaces are finally catching up with the content."
The past year has proven Ryan right, with Adobe and Microsoft duking it out with RIA technologies. And there's a lot more innovation to happen yet, so in 10 years time I can't wait to see what the lay of the RIA land is!
9. International Web
As of 2007, the US is still the major market in the Web. But in 10 years time, things might be very different. China is often touted as a growth market, but other countries with big populations will also grow - India and African nations for example.
For most web 2.0 apps and websites (R/WW included), the US market makes up over 50% of their users. Indeed, comScore reported in November 2006 that 3/4 of traffic to top websites is international. comScore said that 14 of the top 25 US Web properties now attract more visitors from outside the US than from within. That includes the top 5 US properties - Yahoo! Sites, Time Warner Network, Microsoft, Google Sites, and eBay.
However, it is still early days and the revenues are not big in international markets at this point. In 10 years time, revenue will probably be flowing from the International Web.
Personalization has been a strong theme in 2007, particularly with Google. Indeed Read/WriteWeb did a feature week on Personalizing Google. But you can see this trend play out among a lot of web 2.0 startups and companies - from last.fm to MyStrands to Yahoo homepage and more.
What can we expect over the next decade? Recently we asked Sep Kamvar, Lead Software Engineer for Personalization at Google, whether there will be a 'Personal PageRank' system in the future. He replied:
"We have various levels of personalization. For those who are signed up for Web History, we have the deepest personalization, but even for those who are not signed up for Web History, we personalize your results based on what country you are searching from. As we move forward, personalization will continue to be a gradient; the more you share with Google, the more tailored your results will be."
If nothing else, it'll be fascinating to track how Google uses personalization over the coming years - and how it deals with the privacy issues.
We've covered a lot of ground in this post, so tell us know what you think of our predictions. What other Web trends do you forsee over the next decade?
Written by Richard MacManus on readwriteweb.com
09 January, 2009
Trend #1: Try It Now!
An excerpt from an upcoming book by Luke Wroblewski, "Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks," posted on A List Apart helps to point out the issue with sign-up forms on the web. When you're recommended a new web service to check out, Luke writes "you arrive eager to dive in and start engaging and what’s the first thing that greets you? A form. We can do better."
Instead of forcing users through a dreadful sign-up process when really they just wanted to take a look, he promotes the idea of "gradual engagement." After you play around with a web service and get an idea about what it does, you can then choose to take the path to complete your profile in order to create an account, save your work, share the results of your creation, etc.
Luke uses a few examples to make his point: one, Geni, an online family tree creation tool lets users make a family tree as soon as they visit the web site. Of course, as you fill out your name, you also enter in your email, so while you're busy building your tree, you're also being sent an email from the service, reminding you of your account details if you ever want to return to work on your tree. However, this vague "did I just create an account?" design may have worked for Geni, who generated 5 million profiles in 5 months, we would argue that it should be more obvious whether you are creating an account or not.
Geni's "Sign Up" Process
Another example of gradual engagement came from TripIt, a service which lets you plan your trips. The interesting thing about TripIt is that the service also ditches the sign-up form for a more interesting option: you just email email@example.com when your travel plans, be them airline confirmation email, hotel confirmation emails, whatever. TripIt extracts your name and email from the form instead of forcing you to enter these details yourself.
Personally, I recall Twiddla (our coverage) an online whiteboarding service, as implementing the "try-before-you-buy" option really well. Upon visiting the Twiddla homepage, a big button "Try it now in the sandbox," lets you test out the service along with other users in a public sandbox. This way, you can not only try it out for yourself, but you also might see someone else testing a feature you would have otherwise missed. You could also just click "Start a New Meeting" from the homepage and instantly use the Twiddla app with the others who you invite via email, no signing up required.
Trend #2: We Really Care
Another trend spotted in the wild is UI design that shows customers that the company cares about them. Take Samatha Warren's experience with Wufoo, an app that helps you design and build online forms. After finding herself in need of tech support, she noticed an odd form field on the Support Request page: "Emotional State."
The drop-down included choices like excited, confused, worried, upset, panicked, and angry. Samantha chose the feeling that best described her mood ("worried", by the way), and then made a startling discovery:
"As I made my selection and moved the curser to hit the submit button a feeling washed over me that was unlike anything I had ever felt with a webservice online. I felt like they cared. I felt confident that my problem would be solved. I felt like I was contacting PEOPLE who have beating hearts, and families, who had felt worried about their missing contact e-mails too. How very humane of them!"
WuFoo's Support Form
Some say this is cheesy, others find it annoying, but WuFoo isn't the only service to utilize this idea.
Xobni (our coverage), the "social network in your inbox," also asks for user feedback by asking you how you feel. They built the "Are You Happy?" box. From a Xobni employee's blog, Gabor Cselle describes why:
Instead of a popup, we add a little box on the bottom of the sidebar every couple of weeks and ask: "Are you happy?" There are two buttons, Yes and No, and an optional comment field. This is the most lightweight method of collecting user feedback. Note that:
1. We're not popping up an annoying window.
2. We ask a simple question.
3. There are only two options – "yes" and "no" - and no Send button.
Xobni's Emotional Feedback Pop-Up
While an argument can be made that opting out of the happiness check should be more readily available, apparently most of their users don't seem to mind. The feedback is 90% "Yes."
A more obvious place to find "emotional feedback" form fields is on people-powered customer service site, GetSatisfaction.com, (which, by the way, also forgoes a long sign up process by allowing you to fill in a basic form - name, email, CAPTCHA, with further profile information optional.)
Company feedback, ideas, and questions can tagged with a smiley/frowny face depicting how you feel. After you select the face, a box pops up to allow you to pick out a related word like "happy," "anxious," "indifferent," or "unsure."
GetSatisfaction's Emotional Feedback
While emotional feedback doesn't work for everyone - some find it patronizing, especially when they're reporting a critical issue - an opt-in emotional feedback box could at least gather information about requests/complaints and help a company analyze and prioritize their incoming feedback.
Gradual engagement and emotional feedback are only two of many UI trends seen lately, but two that stand out as they seem to be ramping up in terms of usage by web companies. Hopefully, more companies will take note that there are a number ways to generate accounts for their service besides the traditional, boring sign-up form, or at least start supporting OpenID as an alternative.
As for emotional feedback? It's a more risky choice since some users detest it, but done right, it could bring a new level of information about to product feedback while making users feel valued by the company.
Do you have any examples of either of these trends that you want to share? And...how does that make you feel?
08 January, 2009
For the transition to happen the new approach needs to be embraced by more mainstream web sites. Will they go for it? The answer depends on whether they will think that the new UI approach, with contextual choices, is more complicated. Certainly there will be people who will say that consumers are not smart enough to figure out where to click. The concerns might be amplified by the fact that each contextual UI is unique and so won't be familiar across the board for users the way the old UIs were. Still, it seems, based on our experiences over the past few years and on the impressive track record of Apple products, that simple, contextual UI have a chance to finally win out over their complicated Windows rivals.
What do you think - can contextual UIs become the new standard for creating user interfaces? What are your favorite contextual UI elements?
07 January, 2009
It's easier to get the concept with an example. Let's say that you're thinking about going on a vacation. You want to go someplace warm and tropical. You have set aside a budget of $3,000 for your trip. You want a nice place to stay, but you don't want it to take up too much of your budget. You also want a good deal on a flight.
With the Web technology currently available to you, you'd have to do a lot of research to find the best vacation options. You'd need to research potential destinations and decide which one is right for you. You might visit two or three discount travel sites and compare rates for flights and hotel rooms. You'd spend a lot of your time looking through results on various search engine results pages. The entire process could take several hours.
Your Life on the Web
If your Web 3.0 browser retrieves information for you based on your likes and dislikes, could other people learn things about you that you'd rather keep private by looking at your results? What if someone performs an Internet search on you? Will your activities on the Internet become public knowledge? Some people worry that by the time we have answers to these questions, it'll be too late to do anything about it.
According to some Internet experts, with Web 3.0 you'll be able to sit back and let the Internet do all the work for you. You could use a search service and narrow the parameters of your search. The browser program then gathers, analyzes and presents the data to you in a way that makes comparison a snap. It can do this because Web 3.0 will be able to understand information on the Web.
Right now, when you use a Web search engine, the engine isn't able to really understand your search. It looks for Web pages that contain the keywords found in your search terms. The search engine can't tell if the Web page is actually relevant for your search. It can only tell that the keyword appears on the Web page. For example, if you searched for the term "Saturn," you'd end up with results for Web pages about the planet and others about the car manufacturer.
A Web 3.0 search engine could find not only the keywords in your search, but also interpret the context of your request. It would return relevant results and suggest other content related to your search terms. In our vacation example, if you typed "tropical vacation destinations under $3,000" as a search request, the Web 3.0 browser might include a list of fun activities or great restaurants related to the search results. It would treat the entire Internet as a massive database of information available for any query.
06 January, 2009
Other people insist that Web 2.0 is a reality. In brief, the characteristics of Web 2.0 include:
• The ability for visitors to make changes to Web pages: Amazon allows visitors to post product reviews. Using an online form, a visitor can add information to Amazon's pages that future visitors will be able to read.
• Using Web pages to link people to other users: Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are popular in part because they make it easy for users to find each other and keep in touch.
• Fast and efficient ways to share content: YouTube is the perfect example. A YouTube member can create a video and upload it to the site for others to watch in less than an hour.
• New ways to get information: Today, Internet surfers can subscribe to a Web page's Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds and receive notifications of that Web page's updates as long as they maintain an Internet connection.
• Expanding access to the Internet beyond the computer: Many people access the Internet through devices like cell phones or video game consoles; before long, some experts expect that consumers will access the Internet through television sets and other devices.
Think of Web 1.0 as a library. You can use it as a source of information, but you can't contribute to or change the information in any way. Web 2.0 is more like a big group of friends and acquaintances. You can still use it to receive information, but you also contribute to the conversation and make it a richer experience.
While there are still many people trying to get a grip on Web 2.0, others are already beginning to think about what comes next. What will Web 3.0 be like? How different will it be from the Web we use today? Will it be a revolutionary shift, or will it be so subtle that we won't even notice the difference?
02 January, 2009
Tables used to be the "in" thing when it came to designing web sites. As with many other things though, new techniques and methods standards are bound to emerge with time. When once tables were seen in most web pages, some experts now suggest that tables should be thrown out of the window.
In simple words, tableless web design is basically a method whereby page layout control is achieved without the use of HTML tables. Instead, text and other elements on a page are arranged using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). This language is the brainchild of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). It was designed in such a way as to improve web accessibility as well as to make use of HTML for semantic purposes rather than presentational purposes.
One thing that has been making the headlines in the past year or so is the term SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques. With search engines such as Google and Yahoo making big waves in the information sector, web designers are scrambling to get on their good side. The one main goal of a web designer is to get his site on the top pages for search results. How is this achieved? By making one's site search engine friendly.
Search engines make use of various techniques to index all existing web sites. Based on these various techniques, they assign a page rank to the web site. The higher the page rank, the more chances it will be high up in the search engine results. The higher up the site is in ranking, the more chances that people will visit the site. That means good news for the web site. That is where semantics and HTML come in.
So how about tables? Web designers who favor tables assert that they make the design process easier and less time consuming. More so, they assert that tables are more compatible with various web browsers. On the other hand, proponents of tableless formats assert that tables do not adhere to web standards and web accessibility.
Over the years, people have been trying to come up with web standards that are based on logic and that would make it easier for everyone involved to access web sites. Text readers, bots, mobile devices, and other elements were all taken into consideration. As such, the tableless format has come into popular use.
Why should you follow this standard? Here are a few reasons as to why you should go tableless:
- The current W3C standards dictate the use of tableless design.
- Practically all browsers in use today support CSS for controlling layouts. As such, your site will be compatible with most any browser.
- It is easier to make global changes to the layout with the use of CSS. That is, if the coding is properly done, of course.
- Web site accessibility for people with special needs is done more easily with the proper implementation of content into XHTML documents. In this case, CSS is used only for the layout and style.
- Unnecessary code is eliminated with the use of XHTML and CSS, making for a sleeker and more manageable code.
- Tableless formats make it easier for search engines to index a web site.
Though tableless formats are being widely used for page layout control, it does not necessarily mean that tables are not being used anymore. They are merely not optimal for presentation purposes.
The Design in Theory and Practice column is dedicated to helping the reader gain a better understanding of Web design. The first step in this process is getting a grasp on the fundamentals. To achieve this, we need to realize that the discipline of Web design is inherently part of a larger whole. The fundamental concepts underlying Web design have been inherited from the larger field of design, and indeed from other art forms in general. This means that we need to momentarily step away from the medium of the Web and adopt a broader perspective.
In The Principles of Design we looked at half of the basic tenets that underlie the field of design. The principles of design represent the basic assumptions of the world that guide the design practice, and deal with the arrangements of objects in any given composition. In this column we investigate the other half of the tenets, the elements of design, in an effort to bring together a solid foundation on which we can base all future investigations.
What are Elements of Design?
The elements of design are the basic components used as part of any composition. They are the objects to be arranged, the constituent parts used to create the composition itself. In most situations the elements of design build upon one another, the former element helping to create the latter, and the elements described in this column are arranged as such. We will be focusing on the elements of point, line, form (shape), texture and color.
A point is an element that has position, but no extension. It is a single mark in space with a precise, but limited, location. Alone it can provide a powerful relation between negative and positive space, but when grouped with other points the Gestalt grouping principal of closure tends to kick in and the brain compulsively connects the points together. Line or form is a natural result of multiple points in space.
A line is an element characterized by length and direction. Lines create contours and form, and are often used to convey a specific kind of feeling or point to an important feature in a design. Lines are also used to create perspective, and dominant directional lines are often adopted to create a sense of continuance in a composition. In addition, lines that are grouped together often create a sense of value, density or texture.
The simplest definition of shape is a closed contour, an element defined by its perimeter. The three basic shapes are: circle, rectangle (square) and triangle. Form is the shape and structure of a dimensional element within a given composition. Form can be both two-dimensional and three-dimensional and can be realistic, abstract or somewhere in between. The terms form and shape are often used synonymously, which is why they are both included here. In reality, form is derived from the combination of point, line and shape.
Texture is used to create surface appearance, and relates to the physical make-up of a given form. Texture often refers to the material that something is made of, and can be created using any of the elements previously discussed. Texture is both a visual and a tactile phenomenon.
Color is the response of the eye to differing wavelengths of radiation within the visible spectrum. The visible spectrum is what we perceive as light. It is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can see. The typical human eye will respond to wavelengths between 400-700 nanometers (nm), with red being at one end (700 nm), violet at the other (400 nm) and every other color in between these two.
There are many different kinds of color systems, and many different theories on color. We will get into that kind of detail in a later column. For now we will focus on the basics, using a color wheel for illustration purposes. There are three main components of color:
* Hue: Where the color is positioned on the color wheel. Terms such as red, blue-green, and mauve all define the hue of a given color.
* Value: The general lightness or darkness of a color. In general, how close to black or white a given color is.
* Saturation: The intensity, or level of chroma, of a color. The more gray a color has in it, the less chroma it has.
Color harmonies serve to describe the relationships certain colors have to one another, and how they can be combined to create a palette of color.
* Complementary: A complementary relationship is a harmony of two colors on the opposite side of the color wheel. When complementary colors are placed side-by-side they tend to enhance the intensity (chroma) of each other, and when they are blended together they tend to decrease the intensity of each other.
* Analogous: An analogous relationship is a harmony of colors whose hues are adjacent to one another on the color wheel. Analogous colors tend to be families of colors such as blues (blue, blue-violet, blue-green) and yellows (yellow, yellow-orange, yellow-green).
* Triadic: A triadic relationship is a harmony of three colors equidistant from one another on the color wheel. Primary colors and secondary colors are examples of color triads.
In these examples, a subtractive color space was used for illustrative purposes.
Color is typically organized in a hierarchal fashion, based on how colors are mixed. A color space helps to define how the colors are mixed, based on the medium in which the colors are used. There are two different kinds of color spaces:
* Subtractive: A subtractive color space is the traditional color space that most people refer to when they talk about color. It is pigment-based color, as in the mixing of paint. In a subtractive color space, the pigments manipulate the wavelengths that our eyes see. The absence of any pigment produces white, and all pigments blended together produces black.
o Primary colors: Red, yellow, blue
o Secondary colors: Orange, green, violet
* Additive: An additive color space is an electronic color space. It is light-based color, as in the mixing of color on the computer. In an additive color space, light is added to the screen in differing amounts to produce color. The absence of any light is black, the presence of all light, or light at full intensity, is white.
o Primary colors: Red, green, blue
o Secondary colors: Yellow, magenta, cyan
There are many additional concepts that are related to the elements of design. These can include specific terms and/or techniques that are in some way based on one or more of the above ideas. In they end, they add to the collection of compositional tools available for use by the designer.
Typography is the art of arranging typefaces, selecting style, line spacing, layout and design as a means of solidifying language. There are many facets to typography, and only a brief investigation will be started here based around some common terms.
* Baseline: The line on which all letters rest.
* Beardline: The line reached by the descenders of lowercase letters.
* Bowl: The round or elliptical parts of a letterform.
* Cap line: The line reached by the top of uppercase letters.
* Counter: The white space enclosed by a letterform, whether completely or partially.
* Extenders: Extenders are the parts of letters that extend either below the baseline (descenders) or above the midline (ascenders).
* Midline: The top of lowercase letters such as a, c, e and the top of the torso of lowercase letters such as b, d.
* Serif: A stroke added to either the beginning or end of one of the main strokes of a letter.
* Stem: The main stroke of a letter that is generally straight and not part of a bowl.
* Topline: The line reached by the ascenders of lowercase letters.
* X-height: The distance between the baseline and midline of an alphabet. The x-height is usually the height of the unextended lowercase letters.
Pattern is the repetition of shape or form. It can also reflect the underlying structure of a design by organizing the surfaces or objects in the composition. There are many different kinds of patterns:
* Flowing: A flowing pattern is based on the repetition of an undulating line, and reflects a natural meandering through a composition.
* Branching: A branching pattern is the repetition of forking lines, or patterns of deviation. These kinds of patterns can be found in almost all plants, and in many other places in the natural world.
* Spiraling: A circular pattern, or a pattern that winds in and around itself.
Movement can be defined as motion of objects in space over time, and is often described in one of two ways:
* Literal: Literal movement is physical movement. Examples of literal movement include: Products such as the automobile, motion pictures and dance.
* Compositional: Compositional movement is the movement of the viewer’s eye through a given composition. Compositional movement can be either static or dynamic. Static movement jumps between isolated parts of a composition. Dynamic movement flows smoothly from one part of the composition to another.
We have thoroughly explored the fundamental concepts of the field of design. The principles of design give us a way of looking at the world. The overarching axioms of the profession affect the designer universally, and provide guidance for any composition. The elements of design discuss the components of the composition itself, and provide the designer with a basic set of tools to begin working with.
In order to explore the fundamentals of design, we needed to step back a bit away from any one medium. Now it is time to focus in on the Web. In the next column we will investigate the constraints of designing for the Web that can effect how we make use of the principles and elements of design. We will look at medium-specific concepts, such as screen resolution, graphics compression and color mixing in additive spaces.
Depending on who you talk to, (X)HTML and CSS validation is very important. The subject is rather controversial for many webmasters. This article discusses some of the positions taken in from both perspectives of the issue that has received much attention lately. Hopefully, this article will also provide a practical method that overworked webmasters can use to improve their website.
What does Validating (X)HTML or CSS Mean?
For those who are unfamiliar with what validating a web page (ex. validating your (X)HTML or CSS code) means, it basically refers to using a program or an online service to check that the web page that you created is free of errors.
In particular, an (X)HTML validator checks to make sure the (X)HTML code on your web page complies with the standards set by the W3 Consortium, an organization that creates specifications and guidelines that are intended to promote the web's evolution and ensure that web technologies work well together for present and future technologies. There are various types of validators - some check only for errors; others also make suggestions about your code, telling you when a certain way of writing things might lead to (say) unexpected results.
The most popular (X) HTML validator is the W3 Consortium's own online validator which you can use for free at http://validator.w3.org/.
A CSS validator checks your Cascading Style Sheets in the same manner. Most will check them to make sure that they comply with the CSS standards set by the W3 Consortium. There are a few which will also tell you which CSS features are supported by which browsers (since not all browsers are equal in their CSS implementation).
Again, you can get free validation for your style sheets from the W3 Consortium at http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/.
Although validators find errors in your page's source, they do no ensure that it will appear as you want in various browsers. It merely ensures that your code is without HTML or CSS syntax errors. Ensuring that your code appears correctly in different browsers require cross browser testing. To ensure that your website appears as you want in various browsers, you should test your site in Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, and in Netscape if you desire.
Why validate your (X)HTML and CSS Code?
- It helps Cross-Browser, Cross Platform, and Future Compatibility
Even if you code your website to work properly in your favorite browser, a friend of yours or any other visitor to your website may be using a different browser. All browsers don't render pages equally, so your site may not appear in their browser as you had hoped. Your site may appear as you want it to in your web browser with bugs. If these bugs are fixed in later versions of your browser, your site may no longer appear as you want it to.
Coding your pages so that it is correct without errors will result in pages that are more likely to work across browsers and platforms. It is also a form of insurance against future versions of browsers, since all browsers aim towards compliance with the existing HTML and CSS standards.
- Search Engine Visibility
When there are errors in a web page, browsers typically try to compensate in different ways. Hence some browsers may ignore the broken elements while others make assumptions about what the web designer was trying to achieve. The problem is that when search engines obtain your page and try to parse them for keywords, they will also have to make certain decisions about what to do with the errors. Like browsers, different search engines will probably make different decisions about those errors in the page, resulting in certain parts of your web page (or perhaps even the entire page if your error is early in the page) not being indexed.
Even if you test your website in all the various browsers in existence on all the platforms in use and find that it works perfectly in all, errors in your site reflect poorly on your business or site and your skills as a web developer.
Why Not Validate?
- Validation Is No Guarantee that Page Works
Validation does not guarantee that a page will appear as you want it to in all browsers. After validating, the site's pages still must be tested in various browsers to guarantee that the page works in most browsers. This is the major dispute against validation as some see it as a waste of time.
- Time Constraints for Conversion
Most website developers don't learn about web standards and validation when learning (X)HTML and CSS. Converting takes time that many say they simply don't have. (To solve this problem gradually, start out by only validating new pages and pages that need updated.)
- Most Visitors Will Not Care
Depending on the target audience of your website, most of your visitors will not care whether or not your website's pages validate or not. To the visitor, how the page appears in his/her browser is the true test of a web designer's skills.
Validating your HTML and CSS code for standards compliance has certain benefits: it protects your pages from problems arising from syntax errors in your code due to different ways of interpreting errors by different browsers. If, however, you have a large number of existing pages that have not been validated and corrected, but nonetheless work well in search engines and other browsers, you should undergo a gradual transition by validating new pages and pages that need updated as you see fit.