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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
The underlying expertise required falls into four
- Authors can write the text using a simple word-processor, if they wish inserting the relevant tags as they go along. They must be conversant with HTML.
- An author writes the text and the designer inserts tags in order to articulate the sense of the document. This requires that the designer must be conversant with HTML, and must also be capable of interpreting the author's intentions.
- The designer creates tags in a template, and the author inserts content, cutting and pasting any elements which are needed a variable number of times. Some understanding of what the tags mean is necessary for authors, in order that they can diagnose the cause of unexpected effects when testing the document.
- Specialised software is used to hold text elements (for example in a database) and it outputs the text correctly tagged. This approach is useful for a document type which is needed often and which must conform to a standard structure. The author need know little or nothing about HTML.
- information technology
- interactive techniques
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
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
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
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.
Virtual Environments Visualisation