A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Yale University

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1.
#20609

"Chunking" Information

Most information on the World Wide Web is gathered in short reference documents that are intended to be read nonsequentially. This is particularly true of sites whose contents are mostly technical or administrative documents. Long before the Web was invented, technical writers discovered that readers appreciate short 'chunks' of information that can be located and scanned quickly.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>Information Design>Writing

2.
#20608

E-Commerce

In e-commerce sites the crucial design parameters are efficient navigation and search, along with speed to the final 'place order' button. During the 'dot-com' market bubble many new e-commerce sites spent fortunes of their investors' money on elaborate Macromedia Flash or digital video presentations and quickly failed — some went bankrupt before the site was launched. Meanwhile, the Web's most successful commerce sites kept things technically simple and basic. Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, and other successful Web commerce sites use remarkably spare page design schemes and simple text- or tab-based navigation systems. Another area where e-commerce sites often fail is in providing search engines that are smart enough to 'degrade gracefully' when there is no exact match to a request.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>E Commerce

3.
#20604

Editorial Style

Among the many Web-induced trends, the emergence of a new writing genre designed to accommodate the reading habits of Web users is especially notable. People read differently on the Web. One reason for this is that reading text on-screen is unpleasant. Given the low resolution of the computer screen and the clumsiness of the scrolling page, many readers scan onscreen and print pages for reading. Another reason is that Web reading is not a stationary activity. Users roam from page to page collecting salient bits of information from a variety of sources. They need to be able quickly to ascertain the contents of a page, get the information they are seeking, and move on. Also, because Web pages may be accessed directly without preamble, they must be more independent than print pages. Too many Web pages end up as isolated fragments of information, divorced from the larger context of their parent Web sites through the lack of essential links and the simpler failure to inform the reader properly of their contents.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>Writing

4.
#20605

Graphics

In this chapter we show you techniques to optimize the look and efficiency of your Web page graphics. Although electronic publishing frees you from the cost and limitations of color reproduction on paper, you will still need to make careful calculations (and a few compromises) if you wish to optimize your graphics and photographs for various display monitors and Internet access speeds.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>Graphic Design

5.
#20601

Interface Design

Users of Web documents don't just look at information, they interact with it in novel ways that have no precedents in paper document design. The graphic user interface (GUI) of a computer system comprises the interaction metaphors, images, and concepts used to convey function and meaning on the computer screen. It also includes the detailed visual characteristics of every component of the graphic interface and the functional sequence of interactions over time that produce the characteristic look and feel of Web pages and hypertext linked relations. Graphic design and visual 'signature' graphics are not used simply to enliven Web pages--graphics are integral to the user's experience with your site. In interactive documents graphic design cannot be separated from issues of interface design.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>User Interface

6.
#20606

Multimedia

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of computing technology is the ability to combine text, graphics, sounds, and moving images in meaningful ways. The promise of multimedia has been slow to reach the Web because of bandwidth limitations, but each day brings new solutions. Although there are numerous methods for creating Web multimedia, we recommend using stable technology that works for the great majority of client machines. Plug-ins that extend the capabilities of your Web pages are a mixed blessing. You risk losing your audience if you require them to jump through hoops to view your content.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>Multimedia

7.
#20602

Organizing your Prose

Documents written to be read online must be concise and structured for scanning. People tend to skim Web pages rather than read them word by word. Use headings, lists, and typographical emphasis for words or sections you wish to highlight; these are the elements that will grab the user's attention during a quick scan. Keep these elements clear and precise — use your page and section heads to describe the material. The 'inverted pyramid' style used in journalism works well on Web pages, with the conclusion appearing at the beginning of a text. Place the important facts near the top of the first paragraph where users can find them quickly.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>Writing

8.
#20603

Page Design

We seek clarity, order, and trustworthiness in information sources, whether traditional paper documents or Web pages. Effective page design can provide this confidence. The spatial organization of graphics and text on the Web page can engage readers with graphic impact, direct their attention, prioritize the information they see, and make their interactions with your Web site more enjoyable and efficient.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design

9.
#20610

Search

Search facilities are a necessity for large sites and are convenient even for smaller sites that contain long documents. Sites that are updated frequently also require a good search engine, because your menus and site index will probably not keep pace with every change you make in the content pages of the site. But search engines are no substitute for a carefully organized browsing structure of menus and submenus. The two systems, browsing by menu and searching by keyword, complement each other — neither system alone is adequate. Keyword searches give the reader specific links to follow but with no overview of the nature and extent of your content and no feel for how you have organized the information. Menus and tables of contents are great for broad overviews, but if your readers are looking for a specific piece of information not mentioned in the contents, they may miss what you have to offer.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>Search

10.
#18586

Typefaces

Typography is the balance and interplay of letterforms on the page, a verbal and visual equation that helps the reader understand the form and absorb the substance of the page content. Typography plays a dual role as both verbal and visual communication. As readers scan a page they are subconsciously aware of both functions: first they survey the overall graphic patterns of the page, then they parse the language, or read. Good typography establishes a visual hierarchy for rendering prose on the page by providing visual punctuation and graphic accents that help readers understand relations between prose and pictures, headlines and subordinate blocks of text.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Typography>Web Design

11.
#20607

User-Centered Design

Graphic user interfaces were designed to give people control over their personal computers. Users now expect a level of design sophistication from all graphic interfaces, including Web pages. The goal is to provide for the needs of all your potential users, adapting Web technology to their expectations and never requiring readers to conform to an interface that places unnecessary obstacles in their paths.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design

12.
#10010

Yale Web Style Guide

This style manual developed as an outgrowth of Web development projects. It reflects the authors' attempts to apply some of the lessons they have learned in multimedia software design, graphic interface design, and book design to the new medium of Web pages and site design.

Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton. Yale University (1999). Books>Web Design

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