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Dynamic by Design

People probably are not coming to your Web site to see cool special effects; they are coming to your site for information. Your design, dynamic or not, needs to support their information needs. A dynamic Web site, if properly designed, is always better than a static one as it can provide the visitor with greater versatility. However, a poorly designed Web site with dynamic elements can simply be painful to use. In the next section you will learn a four-step process for creating a dynamic Web site, but while you are working, keep in mind these points:

  • Keep it simple. For many people, dynamic content means added complexity—more options, more functions, more to learn, and more to remember. Generally speaking, people do not want more options; they want what they want when they want it. You should use dynamic features to simplify the use of your site, not to add complexity.

  • Show only relevant information. Information becomes knowledge when its relevance is understood. But information that is not immediately relevant can be distracting, and too much information can be just as confusing as too little. Use DHTML to show and hide relevant information as necessary.

  • Make changes clear. We often do not notice changes in our environment, even when they occur right in front of our faces. Dynamic changes in the content of a Web page should be initiated by the visitor, should occur almost instantly, and should be easy to recognize.

  • Provide a sense of location and direction. One common complaint about the Web is that it’s easy to get lost. Compared with the real world, where we can turn to see where we came from and look ahead to see what is next, most Web pages seem to be very insular. Use DHTML to let visitors know where they came from and where they are going.

  • Direct, don’t dictate. The point of a Web site is to allow visitors to move freely within the content. As the author and designer, you want to direct visitors to the information you want them to see but simultaneously allow them to follow their own paths. In terms of what you are communicating to your audience, the links that you do or do not include in a Web page are as important as the words and graphics you put there. Think of yourself as a guide, not a tyrant.


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