jocelyncee: (smart)
Maybe not as blythely and clicheed as all that, perhaps, but I am at least becoming aware of the web's roots in print format. With a husband working at a newspaper that has had a web presence for several years, if not a decade or more, I have been witness (and sometimes impetus) to the changes taking place now in their format. What I have noticed is a typical human frailty: the dependence on the existing, the traditional, the known. Online news still wears the vestments of its older, more established hardcopy cousin. This is a trait that is changing, but online journalism is experience the difficult adolescence, in which it is no longer congratulated simply for being online.

In my work with Nightgig I've also noticed that web comics are also somewhat bound to their more traditional print forbears, with many (if not most) webcomickers designing in strip or full-page format, whether or not their comics were drawn or sketched first by hand or no. The function is dictated to some extent by form, which is largely dictated by either the standard column format or the proportions of a piece of Bristol Board.

Even in my own area of web design it is excruciatingly difficult at times to get past the idea that good paper layouts will work on the web. Advances have of course been made; menus are no longer exclusively bulleted or numbered lists, and navigation doesn't have to be right below the header or in a sidebar. Links to supporting sites don't have to be directly to the right of the header, or right under it. (In fact, the most recent Good Design (TM) that I have seen lately is on the affiliate sites under Koalla Wallop, a webcomics host and community. Their link logo can be found in an unobtrusive (top left-hand) corner of each site, no words, just the face of a koala in a splatter of color, which denotes support from the site but neither overpowers nor intrudes upon each site's design.

What has struck me as the most odd is that so many web sites (mine included) follow what appear to be newspaper guidelines: the most important items are to be found above the fold, above the bottom of the browser window. We are, in essence, imagining a sheet of paper and saying: what is the most important stuff on my site? This stuff should be up at the top. Our web site is this imaginary publication that our readers will hopefully be reading.

But what is the actual medium that our viewers will be seeing? A computer monitor (or perhaps WebTV) that uses landscape orientation, not portrait. Why then do we (myself included) insist upon designing content to be displayed as though each browser window would be turned on its side? Sure, the content at the top of a page can be the most visible, but that assumes also that this content is not dwarfed by something else on the page. Surely information presented in the center of a page (much like the main story in a newspaper) also attracts the necessary attention, if formatted correctly and with enough noticeable features (a catchy headline in large typeface perhaps, or a prominent photograph) that it will overshadow what's at the top?

Only minutes ago Tim and I finished interviewing David Simon of Crimson Dark, who told us that making a web comic per se wasn't specifically his objective: telling his story was first and foremost, and upon examining the media available to him, he decided that web comics were the way to go. Form followed function in this case.

I do not have any kind of solution for this minor conundrum, blanket or otherwise. For the next few projects I am going to try and figure out if there is some way to design for function in the space we have, namely the only visible portion of the browser window. Maybe even the news industry could get wind of this, and begin to approach online news with a similar attitude to David, forgetting for a moment that they've been used to paper, and treat the web as a blank canvas, on which their masterpiece can be built.

As to my own endeavors, more will be revealed, and I will unveil anything I discover here, as well as in my Nightgig blog.

Thanks for the listen.
jocelyncee: (smart)
See, I actually *do* post!

Ambitions are high lately, with finishing my M.A. (soon!), working on various Nightgig sites and related projects. (I'm not on the Gigcast proper this time, but I'm doing the show notes. Behind-the-scenes Girl strikes again.) I've also been tutoring (to fill out those 30 hours a week I'm allowed to work at KU), which I'm finding quite fulfilling. So far I have two tutees, and I think I have a third in my box in the tutoring office.

This morning's projects will be finishing the show notes for Gigcast #57 and working on Nick's site [a redesign of Dribble for Kids] if I get the time before I have to go up to school at 11.

Went to see Devil Music Ensemble [performing music to 1920's Jekyll & Hyde] on Sunday night. If you get the chance to see them, I'd do it: the tix are inexpensive ($8.50 here) and the experience is worth it.

As Agatha indicates, I'm feeling like getting tangible things done. :)

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jocelyncee

April 2009

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