After searching the interned for a definition of webdesign, and only finding suggestions that I should look up whipped cream I thought it best to start with what a website is.
Dictionary.com has this to say:
web·site or Web site
A set of interconnected webpages, usually including a homepage, generally located on the same server, and prepared and maintained as a collection of information by a person, group, or organization.
Usage Note: The transition from World Wide Web site to Web site to website seems to have progressed as rapidly as the technology itself. The development of website as a single uncapitalized word mirrors the development of other technological expressions which have tended to evolve into unhyphenated forms as they become more familiar. Thus email has recently been gaining ground over the forms E-mail and e-mail, especially in texts that are more technologically oriented. Similarly, there has been an increasing preference for closed forms like homepage, online, and printout.
I find the assegai note particularly interesting: Websites and webdesign is incredibly new - the world wide web as we know it at the time of writing is less than 10 years old!
The above definition is not very useful. Effectively a website is a digital entity on the web which can be viewed by a "web surfer". Usually it's purpose is reference material ( such as news, encyclopedia and so on ). I am only interested in the designing of a website; not so much the process, as the end result. Below is an example of a very good Flash animated intro for a site. (Flash is the format I used for my Oratory Hell Animations).
At the moment all you (should) see is a dotted box with "Skip Intro" below it. This is normal.
This animation ( which should be paused at the moment ) is one of the little intros to the designer's at CrazyRaven.com. It shows how music and simple, sharp effects can be used effectively to impress the viewer.
Click here to play animation.
The simplicity of the coloured billboards, as they Moorish shape the text changes. This is quite impressive use of simple techniques. Nothing is over used, it is a concise intro. Also the impact of converting from a billboard-style presentation to little cars racing around help it make a lasting impression. All-in-all it is unique, fresh and complete ( it is not too optimistic, so it does not look tacky.)
Above is another intro to the same website. Click here to play. A "GO" button will appear, click this too. This intro uses a much more photographic approach. Much more graphic intensive. I like the birds and the low alienating hum that makes it seem so foreign and lonely. This is in keeping with the atmosphere of their website ( which you can visit by clicking here [opens a new window] or get an impression by looking through the rest of this page. )
After visiting sites like these I begin to feel that website are more than just information presented on "pages". They have much more depth and breadth than that. After all a printed sheet of paper cannot have moving cars and music on it can it? I have a good friend whom I taught the basics of webdeisgn, and then showed him how he could teach himself from there. He is now a very talented webdesigner; and he is hosting my webpage on his webspace. (Click here to see his site in a new window.) This friend does not refer to himself as a webdesigner, but as a New Media Designer - because he makes use of all the technologies ( animations, sound, interactive pages, forums etc. ).
Below is an example of a new media site - in the interactive animation is all the information that would traditionally be kept on separate pages. Now it is all interactive, and the designer has the artistic license to control everything about the presentation. To elaborate this point: I have not control over how you view this page - if you resize this window the text will move accordingly, and the pictures will shuffle around. Below the amount of control is obvious.
Click here to open example.
(The above is contained in a separate window due to it's constant soundtrack, the window acts as a nifty way of being able to mute it.) The user can click on key words which instantly take them to a new location, with new surroundings. It appears that webdesign is more about atmosphere than content. Webcontent is seemingly a separate Discipline.
To finish off my study of CrazyRaven.com I will include their main menu and information - the header at the top of their site:
Click here to view example.
What I am getting at here is that this site is all about atmosphere and being different. This is arguably not the point of a website or the internet, but I am only interested in the design and what it entails. The author(s) have obviously spent some time on this creation. The background and visual are all of a high quailty, and of a similar style. They have intergrated interactive elements into the static picture (the blue lighting up of tiles on the roof when the cursor passes over them) - but to what end? I hold that it is to add to the experience - to make the person feel that their site is something different and to leave an impact on the user. The navigation is highly unusual ( the buttons being completely hidden from site until used ), yet it is straightforward enough. There is method in the madness.
It is obvious to anyone who has used the internet that not all websites are designed in the above style, so I have taken a look at some more traditional approaches. Please note these examples are the the exception, they are just done using more technically accepted mediums ( they use the normal HTML that webpages are made up of, coupled with standard pictures and coding, unlike the Flash animation packages.
These pictures are quite large, so please click on a link below which will open up a new window.
So to summarize what I have learned, discovered:
Webdesign is the intigrating of different medias such as pictures, text, sound and video into a form which is interesting, but straightforward enough that it can be used by a stranger. A good website is one which is impressive to look at, informative to read, entertaining to use - but never over done; a very long animation everytime a button is pressed causes the user to wait for it to finish and hence is over done.
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