Intent and Audience
When designing for the World Wide Web (WWW), the first issue that should be addressed is the projected audience or the intent of the author. If you were to construct a site that provided information, you would design it very differently from a site that provided an experience or attempted to sell a product. The colors used, layout decisions, and navigational structure should all work to support your concept and intent rather than function independently. There are numerous WWW sites available that are quite dazzling to look at, but the presentation often overpowers the content rather than supporting it. The challenge is to design a site that incorporates graphics, text, and other media to enhance the content or experience. Following is a list of types of WWW sites that would most likely differ greatly in their design based on the intent.
Education (courses on the Internet)
Home Pages - resumes, biographies
Research databases Businesses on the net (advertising)
Job Search boards
Art on the Internet
Calendar of Events
Types of Sites
There are generally two types of sites on the WWW. The most common is the information-based site. These sites include pages that advertise products or services, present documentation or research, promote education, show-case hobbies, and numerous others. The second type is the experiential site. The intent is not to inform but to offer experiences and alter the emotions of the viewer. There are numerous art-based sites, and recreation and game sites that fall into this category. Design decisions differ greatly depending on which type of site you are constructing.
Sites designed to convey information are often more rigid in their design. The user must be able to obtain and understand the information presented. The information should be structured in a logical progression, typically from an overview of the contents, or abstract of the material, to more detailed information. Visual images can often contain as much, if not more information as text, so it is a mistake to think of information-based sites as composed of mostly text. Sometimes information sites broadcast information while others provide a two-way communication mechanism to share information. When designing information-based sites, the concern should focus on how to get the information to the audience in the most effective way possible. Information sites include:
self - product - services
communication for information - 1 and 2 way
business transactions - shopping, banking
Experience-based sites are typically less rigid in design. Often times you see more experimentation in terms of interactivity and design. Sometimes the intent of the WWW designer is to bring the viewer on a journey or invoke feelings or memories. Other times the intent is to appeal to your sense of pleasure or to challenge your skill (mental or hand-eye coordination). Experience- based sites include the following:
Artistic endeavors Role playing and other games Hobby-type sites Communication for experience (chat) Community Building Collaboration
The ChainReaction project is an experience-based site. For example, the main objective is to facilitate collaboration and establish a community of artists working together to create a body of work. Each contribution to the project is connected visually and logically to the chain of images produced. Although there are numerous pages that provide information (how to contribute, list of participants, and image count, for example), the overall intent was to provide an unique experience for the artist. Design considerations were based on the fact that, although the interaction with the project resembled a journey, ChainReaction was developed around a very hierarchically ordered structure.
Adventure games and exploration through space also fit into the category of "exploratory" sites. In the Underground, artists devised a series of paths both under and above ground. As viewers navigate the space, they encounter interesting characters. The characters are represented via images with text de-scriptions that enlighten us as to why they are found in the underground pipes.
Once you have determined your intent, you must begin thinking about the audience that is to receive the content you are providing. Obviously most of the viewers will be somewhat computer literate but the level of literacy will vary greatly. Another important factor is the lack of geographic boundaries on the WWW. The material presented may be read simultaneously by users in Japan, the Czech Republic, and South Africa. Is the content general enough to be understood by a global audience (disregarding the language barrier)? There are times when the target audience is a small specific group of people. In that case, the site should appeal to the senses of this specific group. For instance, if you are targeting music lovers, why not use audio? A research community may more readily accept the information presented if it includes fewer ornamental graphics and more diagrams and tables.
Next page : General Issues
Chapter 3 : Designing Interaction and Exploration