Alright then. So you have created a good web page (or web site). Now what do you do with it? Should you:
- sit on a chair and twiddle your thumbs while you admire your brilliant work and perhaps later hope for the best when it gets online for the world to see;
- bring in 15 or so Californian web designers to celebrate and share the experience; or
- get someone to check it for you?
We recommend answer number 3.
Test your web pages with inexperienced people
After you have designed your amazing Web pages for the world to see, added all the relevant information your customers (or readers) may need, and found someone to keep on eye out on what is happening on your web site and make appropriate decisions, make sure the pages will be successful (before it is even released), by testing them with actual target users. Do this first and the development and operational costs of a business goes down and the level of customer satisfaction goes up.
Actually, the best test of all is to find someone who has absolutely no knowledge of your Web site and ask the person to browse through it and make his/her own critical remarks. As Ms Lisa Fegraus, account director-interactive of Sydney-based design company Extro Design, once said:
"You really need to use your mums, or someone [inexperienced], to test how well a site works." (1)
Take care of copyright and other legal issues when designing web pages
Finally, be careful how you design your Web pages. Some of the graphics you use may be owned by copyright holders (in which case, their use in non-profit web site work may be acceptable so long as appropriate acknowledgment and source is given. By acknowledging and giving a source, you provide copyright holders with a form of free advertising. Otherwise, get permission from the copyright holders).
As Jamais Cascio writes in the PC Computing:
"...the new Digital Millenium Copyright Act requires that online service providers remove material that is merely accused of violating copyright..." (2)
Even the type of file format you use for presenting your graphics on the Web may have to be closely scrutinised as well.
For example, after more than 10 years of keeping quiet, Unisys has now suddenly decided to announce to the world that graphics stored in the GIF format contain a Unisys-owned patent-protected data-compression algorithm called LZW (Lempel-Ziv-Welch). And talks are underway to work out how to get everyone, and not just Compuserve and software companies who were or are using LZW compression in their products, to pay for the license to use this algorithm. If the company is successful in its licensing aims, it would mean the expiration date for the LZW/GIF patent in 2003 may get extended. And, heaven forbids, if that happens, everyone who uses this trivial piece of technology will have to pay. Thanks for that. This is exactly what we need!
This rather convenient oversight from Unisys since 1987 until now means that anyone designing a web page may need to choose very carefully what type of file format they want to use when presenting graphics on Web pages. It seems the only alternative technology to GIFs which costs nothing would have to be JPEG or the new PNG graphic format. As Barry Myers, executive vice president of AccuWeather.com, said:
"The GIF patent, as you may know, is at the end of its useful life. It expires in 2003. And there are new things out there. We're looking at the PNG format, which has better resolution and better colour transmissibility and several other advantages across the board." (3)
Campaigners against the GIF file format controversy are claiming victory after AccuWeather.com made their announcement on the type of file format they will use. Will this be the future for all web pages?
If Unisys should ever succeed in its plans of making millions of dollars on the GIF format (laughable!), we strongly recommend either JPEG or PNG. To convert bulk GIF files quickly into the PNG format, try the simple freeware utility called gif2png 1.0. To convert bulk GIF files quickly into the JPEG format, try the freeware utility called clip2gif 0.7.2.
Also another issue of concern were the recent lawsuits in the US (in 1999) of so-called "electronic piracy" - such as a Microsoft site linking directly to pages within Ticketmaster Online instead of going through the home page as a way of getting better advertising and profits for the site - is challenging the ability of Web site owners to link to other sites in any way they see fit. This is a shift towards a greater commercialisation of the Internet.
So be careful!