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Authoring and Design for the WWW


Staff development issues

What expertise is needed to create Web pages?

Often in this handbook we have referred to the author' as if the origination of the document was undertaken by an individual. In fact a number of variant arrangements are possible depending on the make-up of the team. Even in the following descriptions, the author' may in fact be several contributors. So not only may sites be developed by teams of individuals with widely varying skills, there is also scope for small-scale projects to be done by multi-skilled individuals. The underlying expertise required falls into four categories:

Information technology

To create Web pages even to specify them for execution by others one must grasp the essentials of information technology generally. Some mundane but important aspects of digital media which should be understood are: the concept of file-formats; the potential for transferring information from place to place and program to program; the differing storage requirements of various media.

World Wide Web awareness should be built into the general programme of IT education for staff (and of course students).


The concept of hypertext is an unfamiliar one for most members of an HEI. This unfamiliarity encompasses writing, editing and design, all of which must be considered afresh. If we are to make full use of the potential of the Web, then an awareness of the principles of hypertext, illustrated by good finished examples, is essential.

The conceptual issues of hypertext, its strengths and weaknesses as an educational and informational medium should be exposed through courses, seminars and other activities. Departments should be proactively encouraged to make a variety of experiments in delivering information electronically.


Some staff and students will wish to do their own HTML authoring. Increasingly, there are software tools which alleviate some of the difficulties of using the HTML mark-up system. However for those intending to do significant work in this area, the need for a nuts-and-bolts understanding of HTML is currently still unavoidable.

The possibility of using templates and other forms of assistance should also be investigated.

Those staff who are interested should have an opportunity to learn how to author HTML at a variety of levels of complexity.


While HTML provides for straightforward hypertext, there are many aspects of interactivity which it does not inherently support. For more wide ranging interactions, expertise in Java, Director or some other truly interactive technology is required. Greater freedom to design complex, multimedia documents brings with it a need for well-informed user-centred design.

HEIs need to maintain and develop a core of expertise in these skills, which are currently in short supply. An understanding of user-centred design is as important as technical expertise.

The most highly skilled originators of Web documents will be conversant with all five of these areas, but many HEI staff and students will be able to do useful work on the basis of only one or two.

As sites become bigger and more complex, significant supporting technical expertise becomes necessary. Specialist skills in usability testing may be required, though if such expertise is not available, this should not be an excuse for avoiding informal testing and revision of the site.

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