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By Jim Gerland and Mark Winer

Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!


Web Graphics - Part I
April 8, 1997

Frequently we are asked what goes into creating a quality WWW site. There are many elements including text, graphics, programming and the synchronization of all these elements. It goes without saying that the content of the site is paramount. How many Internet surfers want to read about Sea Monkeys (users.uniserve.com/~sbarclay/seamonk.htm).

Actually there are quite a few scientists who are interested in this. Many in fact have access to millions of your tax dollars (sorry, that's another columnists' job). That is one of the advantages that the Internet, unlike other mediums, has. A WWW site can cater to a small niche audience. You might not be interested in monkeys but many anthropologists are - including those in Africa, Australia, and other locations around the world. And a WWW site is the perfect vehicle to exchange information about Sea Monkeys.

However, for many sites one of the key ingredients to attracting viewers is the visual appeal of the Web site. This is especially true in the corporate marketplace. Can you imagine the Disney site (www.disney.com) or the Official Star Wars Site (www.starwars.com) without great looking graphics? Sites such as these can be judged a failure if the graphical element is poor or if it takes an interminable time to view.

In creating graphics for the Web, unlike print media or television, there are constraints upon developers. For example, the size of the graphic file. Who hasn't been frustrated by waiting... and waiting.... and waiting.... for a graphic to download.

And that's the genius of the best WWW sites today. They are visually appealing yet accessible to viewers who have standard computer equipment. Not everyone is blessed with a corporate Internet connection. Most of us are lucky if we have a 28.8kbs modem connection. And the best sites are those that load quickly yet still look great when we dial-up.

That is if the target audience needs to view graphics. The best Website developers determine who their audience is: graphics may not be important to the site. It's fun to be able to include all the latest and greatest graphical treats for an audience - that is if they can view them.

Ross Winston, WebMaster for the University at Buffalo, notes: "At UB, some of our audience can't view graphical sites because a some of our computer labs have older equipment. I estimate that close to 20% of the hits (viewers of sites) to our home page (wings.buffalo.edu) are still using text-only browsers." The Buffalo Free-Net alone has thousands of members who don't have the ability to use a graphical browser.

The message is simple: not everyone on the information superhighway is going the same speed. And that's an important consideration for Web developers to take into consideration when creating sites: who is the intended audience?

The Internet is changing rapidly. Born as ARPANet in the late 1960's, it was network of computers created to share pertinent military information. Over the past two and a half decades this has developed into what we know as the Internet. It's only been four years since the Internet has been opened up to commercial ventures. The World Wide Web has only become a 'buzzword' in the last two years. Obviously, the computer equipment in offices and homes have not been upgraded as quickly.

Many still use the Internet as an information vehicle. Graphics, audio and video are irrelevant to someone trying to research the history of Noah's Ark (www.fni.com/cim/technicals/noah.txt). And it's important to determine if the message you are trying to convey needs graphics. Scott Zimpfer, Adjunct Professor of Communication Studies at Canisius College and WebMaster for ToolSource (www.toolsource.com) notes, "The best sites answer these questions: 'Who am I trying to reach' and 'How can I communicate with them most effectively?'"

That's one of the purposes of this series of articles: to help those of you developing your own home pages, whether it be for fun or profit. Sure, you may not be designing a corporate web page. But even if you are creating your Family Home Page you want it to look great. We hope to educate you on what tools are best for creating great graphics for websites as well as some techniques, tips, and tricks from the best Internet Graphics Artists in Western New York. And if you aren't planning on creating your own website, we hope to shed some light on what goes into all those fancy graphics you see on your favorite site.

Finally, we are always interested in finding out what questions you have about graphics on the Internet. What sites do you like? What frustrates you? Do you have something worthwhile that you think others should see?

As always, comments and questions can be directed via email to (edge@edgeglobal.com), or fax, (716) 853-1350. Let us know what's happening on the Internet in WNY or any computing related activities you're involved with.