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Authoring and Design for the WWW

About this handbook

This handbook does not provide technical instruction in the creation of Web pages, which is available from many other sources. Technical examples are only given to illustrate points of principle. What it aims to do instead is to cover areas which are inadequately covered elsewhere and to relate these specifically to the needs of Higher Education. Some of the fundamental principles of the Web are in flux. Rather than propose ready-made answers, we attempt to present the issues so that Web authors and designers, managers and information officers, can make up their own minds.

HTML, the Hypertext Markup Language which is the basis of the original Web, is based on principles increasingly threatened by recent Web publishing practices. Will it survive in anything like its original form? What are the merits and weaknesses of the various rival solutions? Does the Web call into question some of the ways in which HEIs promulgate and use information? How can authors of Web documents recast their attitude to information, and even their writing style, to suit this medium? What do designers need to know in order to make best use of what the Web offers, and how can non-designers make informed decisions about the layout and structuring of interactive, electronic information?

Themes and limits of this handbook

There is considerable interest in the use of the Web as a location for learning, whether for on-campus students or for distance education. This handbook does not primarily deal with the pedagogic implications of these networked learning methods. However, the main focus of this handbook the information which an HEI publishes about itself cannot be considered separately from attitudes to teaching and learning. Issues of policy are dealt with, and in order to provide a foundation, important principles of electronic media are also discussed in some detail. Attention is given in a series of short case studies to the design (in its broadest sense) of Web documents. Appendices provide supporting information.

This handbook is not an academic document. Pointers to other works are provided in cases where they have immediate practical application, but there are opinions and assertions not supported by references.

The need for this handbook

The Web encourages a multiplicity of authors' and publishers'. In fact such clear roles are undermined by the Web, authors becoming their own publishers to a greater extent than in the so-called DTP Revolution. There are few practical barriers between author and public (though of course the author may still remain unread). Instead for many in HE the barrier to greater exploitation of the Web is ignorance of what can be done and how to achieve it. Many academics have not had the opportunity to try using the tools, and have perhaps been told by technical staff that the creation of Web pages is best left to them. Above all, many will have been repelled by the many poor examples of material currently available on the Web.

This handbook is designed to enable readers to:


Some Web terminology is provided in a glossary (p115). Here we define other terms as they are used in this handbook.


Documents reside on a Server awaiting request from users. Legally, the publisher of Web documents is probably the owner of the Server, but we have used the term publisher' to identify the person or organisation which decides to make a document public. In some cases the publisher will also be the author of the document.


We have used the term author' for the originator of Web material, whether the material is textual or in some other form.


The Web designer's role is changing rapidly: until recently it was confined to deciding from what textual chunks the document should be constructed, and where in those chunks graphics were to appear. Now Web design is acquiring a greater resemblance to conventional graphic design, and at the same time aims to offer many of the possibilities of interactive multimedia.


Using the Browser software, the User requests documents, views and interacts with them.

We have chosen the term user' in place of reader' since reader' implies predominantly textual documents and fails to acknowledge the interactive role of the user.


We have referred to Universities, Institutes, Academies, Art Schools and so forth by the generic term HEI, or Higher Education Institution.
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