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Matters of Development...

by John December (john@december.com)

If you follow the ancillary industries that are growing around the Web, you may have noticed that many companies and groups offer services they often call "home page design" or "HTML programming."

These companies have sprung up like dandelions on a May morning, offering their services to businesses, hoping to tap in on the burgeoning interest in the Web and the Net.

I applaud these visionary companies. I run my own Web site myself, and I do the best I can to pursue my dreams while at the same time promote my work, make new contacts, and meet the needs of my readers.

But I do I have a small problem with some of these Web companies, particularly in their approach toward developing Web information.

First, their Web sites are often poorly constructed. I'm amazed to see massive graphics, poorly written text, outdated information, and poorly designed hypertext at the sites of people purporting to do this professionally.

Second, these companies often portray Web information development as equivalent to "HTML coding." This is analogous to holding the view that creating business and professional communication requires only typing skills. How many companies devoted to contract typing are out there these days?

As the web matures, people and companies realize more and more that the quality of their Web information depends on the careful mental work that goes on behind the scenes. This work involves shaping information content using specialized techniques, common sense, and an obsessive devotion to satisfying user needs.

If a company chooses to hire outside consultants to craft their Web site, they should demand a "big picture approach" in which processes such as planning, analysis, design, promotion, and innovation are key parts of the Web information development methodology.

Certainly, implementation in HTML, CGI, or Java, requires a good deal of technical expertise and is an important part of Web information development. But implementation alone is often the least of the worries companies should have on the Web. The biggest concern should be on creating high-quality, compelling content and meeting user needs.

Approaching Web information development as a human communication activity, in which developers seek to excite the audience and meet their needs, is paramount.

After all, is it the typing or the fire of imagination that grabs readers of a good novel?


John December is co-author of HTML & CGI Unleashed (Indianapolis: Sams.net, 1995) and maintains a site devoted to Web development at http://www.december.com/web/develop.html.

Submitted by John December

Copyright © 1996 John December
Revised: Mar. 10, 1996

URL: http://webreference.com/matters.html