get the most web This highway is lined with billboards... What makes yours stand out?

The word heuristics denotes the manner in which all the various visual elements are laid out on the screen in front of the viewer.

Take a look at the toolbar above this, for instance. Even when you scroll down this part of the page, you will always see the toolbar, and its scrolling message, so that it will always be available for you to use. On either side of the message are high-lighted areas with navigation tools in them. The tree on one side, the logo on the other, create a balanced picture. Hidden behind the tree are sophisticated navigation tools; but you do not see these until you need them. Even behind the logo, there is a navigation tool which is not so simple as it seems.

That's the idea: proper heuristics make the difficult appear simple.

The basic heuristic elements in a web page, the tables, the frames, the toolbars, these profoundly affect how well the site works for the visitor.

When you plan a web page, do not simply think of the pages. Think also of the visual theme, and the way elements are arranged heuristically. A good theme requires time and money to create.

Lively graphics are not cheap,
......... and are worth every penny.

water good enough to drink
Web graphics are no simple matter. They present difficulties beyond the ordinary design problems of print graphics.

  1. They must be bright.
    It is darn hard to read the label on a lit light bulb. Lots harder than on the paper package. Well, this also is an illuminated medium. Your logo needs to be brighter and have a better contrast than ever before. It must stand out from the background.
  2. They must be browser compatible.
    All colors do not display the same way on all browsers. Where possible, your colors should derive from a limited pallette of colors which will always display alike on every browser.
  3. They must be optimized.
    Optimizing reduces the size of a web graphic by removing unused structural elements. A graphic may reduce to half its size, or to a hundredth its size, depending on structure. Graphic size is still the most important factor governing page download time. Since no one is going to notice your page if they give up before it downloads, optimization is crucial. This special process requires special optimizing software, skill, and patience.
  4. They can be animated.
    Your web graphic can do something which your paper graphic will never do: it can redraw and reshape itself. Motion draws attention. Ask any cat.
  5. They must be simple.
    Your web site visitor may come with a 17" screen, 1024x768 resolution,, 17 million colors, and 64 megs of video RAM. Or he may come with a 14" screen, 640x480, 256 colors, and one meg. Detail does not do well where you cannot predict the display. So Keep It Simple

Text can fall down, corkscrew, explode, dissolve, or implode. As with so many things, Internet Explorer is far and away the best browser for showing these special effects. Netscape won't show any of these. Text can slide
Text can scroll
Text can bounce back and forth

Eye Candy
MacroMedia Shockwave, Java applets, embedded sound and video and other forms of expensive "eye candy" must only be used very sparingly, if at all. Here are two important considerations:
  1. If you want to be found by search engines, then your site must be catalogued by the search engine robots. These robots are software programs which crawl around the web sorting through all the text they can find on all the sites they can find. These robots cannot see ShockWave, Java, nor any other compiled objects. All they can see is text. Period. Your eye candy may look very impressive, but what good will it do you if your site cannot be found because it is only visible to the human eye?
  2. Nothing will drive people away faster than a ShockWave object which requires the visitor to download and install a new version of software, or a Java applet which crashes the visitor's machine. Your eye candy may work very well for you, but what good is it if some proportion of your visitors turn away in disgust?

You will see much flippancy on-line. The web is not a staid medium. This is supposed to be fun. Do not write your copy as you would a business letter.

Of course, this is not appropriate for every topic. But you must avoid the sales pitch, the pedantic lecture, or the flaccid pedestrian innocuous doublespeak which pervades our politically correct era. Remember, this is not like a television ad, which someone must wait through because they want to see the rest of the sitcom. Here, the visitor is in control. With one click, he can go away if you bore him.