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Authoring and Design for the WWW


The Museum Building Site

The site aims to sensitise the user of the Natural History Museum to the museum building as architecture, rather than just a container of objects. The building is unusual in that it was purpose-built to reflect the nature of the collections which it houses, with extensive use of natural-world motifs in stone and other materials. Typical use is envisaged to be before or after a school visit to the museum itself.

Who's talking?

A neglected issue in the design of Web sites is that of language, and in particular voice. Different media, and different genres within those media, require different styles of address. Radio, television, newspapers, encyclopaedias, business letters, novels all adopt very different language styles. A letter sent by e-mail will usually differ from one sent on paper, having something perhaps in common with a telephone conversation. By contrast, many Web pages, especially those produced by HEIs, have a deadening formality derived from validation documents and departmental reports.
Museum home page

The right language for the Web?

No one yet knows what is the natural language of Web documents, but since the technology makes possible the construction of many-to- many documents rather than the traditional one-to-many model of HEI information, we would argue for a multivocal and varied approach which is not limited to any particular style of address. There will be occasions for formality, and authority, but there will also be many occasions when a feeling of immediacy and informality is far more effective. There is much to learn from radio and television in this respect.
arch window and 'lozenges'

A simple navigational device used in the Natural History Museum site, representing the actual physical orientation of the parts of the building described. Users can see which section they are in by observing which lozenge is missing from the window.

A context-sensitive navigation control

Providing a navigation control which allows the user to click on any major section, and which then displays clearly which part the user has selected, seems a modest requirement of any hypermedia system. However, within the technical limitations (at the time this site was developed) it proved surprisingly difficult. The simple but cumbersome solution adopted here was to a have a different version of the navigation graphic for each of the seven areas, each with the appropriate lozenge missing! This is just the sort of weakness which will decline as the Web acquires a fuller set of features from mainstream multimedia. One solution to this problem is to make a control panel as a Shockwave file, and offer it in a frame of its own, though this in itself is not ideal (see Archaeology Adventure site next ).
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