The Research and Development of the Informatics Web A Development Methodology Explained Next Page

Process 3: Design

(Parallel information and resources are also available at

The design process takes the purpose, objective, specification, audience, and domain information and produces a HTML-independent description of the web. Developers must try to keep the following principles in mind;

During the design process, developers must also make the decision about which information space to use. Do they use FTP, Telnet, Gopher, HTML or a combination to actually implement their information?

Design Methods

December describes methods which are taken into account during the design process;


Users can only absorb a certain amount of information at a time, therefore designers must take care not to overwhelm the users with a mass of information.

"At most the number of items of 'chunks' we can remember at any one time… is about seven" (Preece et al, 1994)

This is why designers must make an attempt to package information into a number of the right sized chunks.

December suggests a practical method for packaging information. Briefly, this consists of;

  1. Start with the objective statement, and identify each noun or concept, and illustrate these in a diagram.
  2. Cluster these concepts into groups related by topic, or by process, based upon which the user will find most usable.
  3. Cluster these groups, forming nested groups.
  4. Continue clustering until there is a single group left, showing that no further clustering can be done.

This diagram can now serve as a map to break down the web into packages. One simple transformation is to consider each group a package, which may consist of information or a set of links to information. These packages can then be transformed into pages, being careful not to overload any page.

Another good idea is that designers make use of reusable pages. If each page a designer creates accomplishes one specific purpose, it can be a useful link throughout the entire web. This reduces redundancy, and the possibility of inconsistent information.


Once accurate, well-designed pages have been created, the next stage is to decide how they are linked together. There are several methods of doing this;

Another technique designers may use is to provide an index page for every page in the web. For large webs, this may have to be hierarchical in nature, but the concept is to provide a central point for the user to locate a page they know is in the web, but can't remember how to get to. A web-site search engine would also be of help in this area.

Usability and Navigation


This whole methodology is user-centred, and the user wants to get their job done correctly and efficiently. One of the fundamental questions any user will ask when presented with information is "What is this?" This is where information cueing is important.

Cueing consists of information cues ("here is what this is"), and navigation cues ("here is how you get from here to there").

Information cues

Information cues help the user know the page's purpose, intended audience, contents, and objective. In other words, information cues orient the user - they help the user know what the page is for and what it concerns. Techniques of information cueing include;

Navigation Cues

Navigation cues help the user understand where the page fits into the larger web. They also teach the user how to leave the page or web, as well as how to obtain further information. Techniques of navigation cueing include;

Look and Feel

This aspect of the design process is concerned with specifying an archetypal template which dictates the look and feel of the overall web. Developers should aim to give the user an impression that all the web pages reflect a common organisation or subject. The pages should also be aesthetically pleasing, and should strike a balance between simplicity and completeness. Techniques to enable the designers to do this include;


It is at this stage that December introduces the notion of "information texture"

"Information texture refers to the medium in which information is encoded, the structure of the information, and the connections to and from the information... The information texture sets up user expectations about what has been found and how to deal with it" (December et al, 1995, pp849, 850)

Information texture refers to;


In brief, designers must watch out for the following hazards;

The Research and Development of the Informatics Web A Development Methodology Explained Next Page