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Designing Your Menus

Before you fire up your HTML editor or Web page design program, pause for a moment and consider what type of menu system you want to create. You should jot down the answers to these questions:

  • Is the appearance of the menu important? Your menu system can pull out all the tricks of today's Web designers, with animated graphics, video, and sound, or you can choose the Spartan appearance of simple formatted text—which is naturally much easier to produce. As an example, consider a demo disc for a new software product on one hand (which is likely to use plenty of graphics and sound to impress potential customers) and compare that with a clip art disc for distribution to your co-workers (which is strictly utilitarian, as in “I want to download this graphic to my hard drive right now, without any eye candy.” The demo disc is meant to be explored, whereas the clip art disc simply needs a method of retrieving files.

  • What type of computer will use the disc? Is your menu likely to be used on the latest hardware, or will it have to run on older computers that may not perform well when trying to display video or high-resolution graphics?

  • Will the contents of the disc be downloaded or viewed inside the browser? This will determine whether you need any commands for downloading files to the hard drive; for example, a CD with text documents converted to HTML can be viewed directly within the browser.

  • Will you need any Internet connectivity? If not, your disc menu can be totally self-contained.

    tip

    As a consultant, I have found through personal experience that it's still somewhat dangerous to assume that a connection with the Internet will be available! There's certainly nothing wrong with adding links to your e-mail address or Web page to your menu system; if an Internet connection isn't available, those links simply won't operate. However, if you don't take the extra step of including programs or files on your disc and instead provide a link to those files on your Web page, don't automatically assume that the person will be able to download them…red-faced embarrassment could follow.


  • Are submenus appropriate? Like a typical Web site, your HTML menu system can provide anything from a simple, one-page interface to a complex hierarchy of submenus; typically, I like to keep things to either a single main menu or a main menu with a single level of submenus. Submenus come in handy when the contents of the disc fall into specific categories: for example, a disc that has company logos and artwork on one submenu page and press releases in Word format on another submenu.


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