October 12, 2004

BlogMorph - HTML and Aesthetics

At the beginning of the semester, Valerie gave a presentation on customizing weblogs and helped rekindle my interest in HTML.

I have to admit, that the very first time I saw HTML code on a computer screen I was mostly disappointed.

It was back when I was about 12 years old, and I found a website online that promised to teach a simpleton like myself how to make my own website. Of course, I had no idea what was in store for me; I thought that it would be as simple as making a few clicks, typing in a few words, and drawing a few pictures.

Was I wrong? You bet.

Coding of any type is usually intimidating at first, and HTML was no exception for me. All of those scattered numbers, letters, and symbols can be frightening when you don't understand what tags are, or why there are brackets here or there.

Luckily, I didn't give up on learning HTML very easily, and although I never reached a level of programming skill that I would consider to be proficient, I did learn a few things about coding in general and how to manipulate it in most of the basic ways.

I gave up on HTML for a long while, until about two years ago when I started writing scripts for NWN (Neverwinter Nights) modules, which are built upon the same principles as HTML, essentially (except the use of tags is different). Then I got tired of that game and quit again.

Now, thanks to Valerie's blog entry and presentation, I have been having a lot of fun practicing with HTML and learning some new things that I never have before.

One of the most useful and pleasing types of coding I've worked with for my own weblog is customizing the stylesheet to change the colors and layout. Valerie provides a link to an excellent website that describes all of the typical HTML tags and even explains and lists color changes. I probably never would have figured out how to mess with the color scheme of my blog if it weren't for this source of information, and I have also found myself referring to it from time to time when I want to refresh my memory of some of the other parts of HTML coding.

As I started playing around with the appearance of my blog, I came to realize some important aesthetic pointers that guided my changes.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the aesthetic design of a weblog or any other text-based entity is that it must be easy to read. This is especially true on a computer screen, because a monitor cannot make a good match for the resolution of print on paper.

It's useful to condense the layout of a web page, because it usually makes it easier for the viewer to find what he (or she) is looking for. It also reduces the need for annoying scrolling.

Pictures on a web page tend to distract the attention of the viewer, so it's probably best to place them near the top or the bottom of a block of text (as opposed to in the middle, the way that some websites do; check out Leslie's Panel 1-C blog entry and see if you find this to be true or not), in order to ensure that while reading, the viewer isn't simultaneously observing a photo or a cool animation.

Lastly, it's important to make a web page interesting. If everything follows a rigid style that never changes, the viewer will probably become bored with the repetition. Of course, there is no problem with web pages having the same color schemes or navigation design (in fact, these things are encouraged to promote a sense of unity among them), but it's nice to spruce things up a bit with some objects in different positions, as well as writing that uses different techniques for different purposes, as Dr. Jerz describes on his academic weblog.

I feel that my ability to use HTML has expanded to fit aesthetic design quite well, and I am continuing to learn more about it everyday.

Posted by ChrisU at October 12, 2004 09:04 AM
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