The Basics of Appearance

The variety of readings for this week made me think about the appearance and functionality of the web. I’m not sure how much I really thought about the appearances of websites before this week. I’ll admit that I am guilty of judging websites by the first page, and when I see a site that seems out of date I immediately move on. I typically don’t give much thought to the information of these sites, other than they appeared old and annoying. There’s something about a site that looks like it hasn’t been updated in the past decade that makes the site as a whole inaccessible. Unfortunately, this often seems to be the case with small and local historical organizations that don’t have much experience in creating websites. Just as historical societies can put out vibes of being antiquated and inaccessible, the same can be said for certain websites. This is unfortunate because historical societies have so much information to share and should be easily accessed by the local community. This belief encouraged me to take the digital history courses at GMU. Historical organizations (i.e. local/state societies, historic homes, museums) need to adapt to the digital world and a great place to start is in remodeling the appearance. While the physical location shouldn’t be changed, the website’s appearance is a great way to impress new generations of visitors.

With all that being said, I found reading Rebecca Hagen and Kim Golombisky’s White Space is Not Your Enemy to be very insightful. They raised some interesting points about how best to appeal to the viewing public. As Dr. Petrik mentioned in class, it’s important to remember that a site’s appearance changes depending on the computer, tablet, or mobile device that views it. Hagen and Golombisky reinforce this point by stressing the various ways a site can change depending on what type of device is being used. Although that seems rather obvious, it’s something that I take for granted. I know that site’s change, but now I need to keep that in mind as I create my own. The authors did a great job by comparing the static appearance of a paper brochure and that of a website. Once again this is an obvious point, but it emphasizes the idea that a website’s appearance will always change.

As I look forward to creating my own website, I’m sure I’ll become preoccupied with all of the new information that I’ll learn, such as HTML and CSS. These readings are a good start to the semester because they emphasize the importance of the simple things about a website. Make sure it looks goods, presents solid information, and is easily navigated. Those are some aspects that are easy enough to understand without knowing anything about how to actually create the site. I’m hoping to keep that in mind and not forget the importance of appearance as my brain gets overrun by the technical aspects of creating a site. The Stanford Web Credibility Project laid out some excellent guidelines that I’ll keep close as a constant reminder of necessities of my site. Above all, I want my site to be credible, because really, what’s a history site worth if it’s not?

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