Third Generation Web Site Design

From the traditional designer's point of view (ie print media), the web has a long way to go yet because of the many restrictions on the use of typography. David Siegal's * philosophy in third generation web sites is to present information from a designer's point of view, and ensure that it is compatible with common browsers, as well as being independent of technology trends.

The web browsers, mainly Netscape and Microsoft Explorer, are becoming increasingly technology based in order to deliver the multi–media content that is currently in demand. This multi–media content includes sound and animation, database, e-commerce, and 3D worlds, such as vrml. Designers now have a greater power to deliver dynamic content, within the default environment of the browsers. A classic example of this is both Netscape and Explorer come bundled with the plug–in for Macromedia Flash. Flash can deliver dynamic media, such as interactive graphics, sound, animation, 3D images, forms & e-commerce. Other similar media requires the user to down–load the plug–in for their particular browser and platform (MAC or PC). While there is now a greater array of tools available to the web designer, it seems that the designers need to discipline themselves to know when to use, or not to use the multi–media in preference to the keeping a simple approach for clean communication.

Third generation sites aim to attract and communicate to an audience in accordance with the particular site's objective. The site objective could be to inform, inquire or sell in the shortest amount of time required. To do this, there is an emphasis on project design and management in order to create a site that will draw the viewer in, so that they will instantly be aware of who, what where and why the site exists at just a glance. The viewer will want what is provided at the site and also want to know how to get it, using anintuitively designed navigation system to find their way around the web site. The site structure is considered extremely important for the web site's design if it is to meet the above requirements.

Web design has evolved with respect to the constantly changing technological environment of the web's capability and it's limitations. There was a period of time where interactive CD ROM's were used to deliver contents which was technically too difficult over the web; this situation has now turned around where by the design philosophies for CD ROM are now being applied for the web. The design goal is to create an intuitive navigation system in order to allow the user to find what they are looking for quickly. This is extremely important if the web site contains huge amount of content information. The users will recognise the function from the visual form of the button, ie form follows functionality. The visual form of the navigation system must support and /or suggest the function for immediate response to navigate to the information they are seeking. For example, a button on a banking web site that links to home loans, will the shape or look of the button suggest "click me" to go to home loans. Maybe the button will have only text, or a symbol or both a symbol plus text. Web designers must now realise that they have a responsibility to present content and navigation appropriate to the purpose of the site. The work is similar to creating a corporate identity for print; what colour, what symbols are appropriate to visually communicate the mission statement or whatever else their client is seeking to convey to the prospective client.

The third generation philosophy tends to be similar to the advertising / marketing strategy of "AIDA", ie, attract the audience in a milli–second, hold the interest once you have their attention, create the desire for the attracted audience to want to know more, then call the actionline, will motivate the audience to take action to respond?. On the web, the same approach is required, what will attract the audience to the web site, what will be there when they get there, what is the purpose of the web site. The marketing specialists are now just getting on the band wagon as we can see in the magazine rack at the newsagent, with plenty of marketing online mags available. The design of a web 3rd generation site could be structured to have a splash–page to attract attention, a tunnel–page to guide the viewer through some unique offer, to provide interest, and a core page which will provide information about the total content at the site, as well as a navigation system to show how to get what and where, (this section must provide the desire for the viewer to know more). There would be an exit page that could promote the call to action such as an electronic form to fill in on the screen to participate in an offer. This web design strategy is directly influenced by presenting the what, why and who rather than a technology–based design.