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Authoring and Design for the WWW


The IATEFL Special Interest Group Site

IATEFL home page
The site is aimed at members of a large organisation for teachers of English as a foreign language, which has several special interest groups. It is a demonstrator of the possibilities of small-scale multimedia over the Web.

The main focus of this prototype was the use of Macromedia Shockwave to provide richer styles of interaction than HTML itself supports. The user must previously download the necessary plug-in. It is conventional to provide a link on any site which requires such a plug-in to a legitimate source from which the user can acquire it (usually free of charge). The browser must be one which conforms to the plug-in architecture. No additional software is needed on the server.

Richer forms of interaction

The set of Shockwave plug-ins provides browsers with the ability to deliver various proprietary Macromedia file formats over the Web, within the browser window. These include Director, Freehand and Authorware. For this site, small Director files were converted to the Shockwave format using Macromedia's Afterburner and embedded in HTML pages. Such Director files combine multiple media with interactivity devised using the Lingo scripting language.

In the example shown, a Shockwave component (file size 66K) allows the user to experiment with combining vowels to make diphthongs. The user enters a formula as though on a simple calculator, and then hears the resulting sound. The Lingo coding takes care of allowing only meaningful input at any one moment, so that for example the user must put the +' operator in before trying to add another vowel.

Other multimedia components of this site include an interactive literature quiz and an identify the accent puzzle.

The file size of such components was a limitation, since the whole Shockwave element is downloaded, including its sounds. This is changing, as progress is made with continuous streaming of data from server to browser.

Integrating multimedia components in the Web page

The design of multimedia for CD-ROM, point-of-information services and so forth tries increasingly to produce a fully integrated screen where the various interactive components are part of a seamless whole. This has not been easy on the Web, and the designers of this site have used a simple device to help integrate the Shockwave item into the main screen, namely that the colours and tiled background texture are the same for each. See the Archaeology Adventure site below for another approach.
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