Re: Project X

Subject: Re: Project X
From: David Blyth <dblyth -at- QUALCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996 14:46:41 -0700

>> o Imagemaps are great! The problem isn't with the use of imagemaps
>> themselves but with large graphics which are used as image maps.
>> A small graphic can be used just as well.

> I can't agree with that. What is the great feature of imagemaps
> that you like?

They provide a large amount of navigational aid in a small amount of
space. The destination address is nice, but a lot of people I
talk to don't even know it's there in the first place. And this
objection does not apply to client-side image maps.

Besides (as Arlen said), some people learn visually, some learn
textually. Just as textual learners shouldn't be forced to depend
on graphics, visual learners should not be forced to depend
on text only sites and ALT tags.

> It isn't necessary to skip every HTML feature, but you should make sure
> that a browser that doesn't recognise that feature can still display an
> intelligible page. This means using links with ALT tags, * marks in
> 'pretty' divider graphics and the like. Once you have that mindset, it
> takes little or no time or money to do.

I agree, up to a point. Designing a Web site is still a fairly
expensive process so you gotta make some compromises.

For example, My original IEEE proposal explicitly called to present
the paper _visually_ as a Web site at the IPCC conference - where
I controlled the mouse.

Am I including ALT tags? Most of the time, yes. But if I forget
one, I don't worry about it because I don't need them. Am I including
at least one badly designed image map? Definitely. I'm intentionally
demonstrating mistakes.

And do I attempt to be compatible with HTML 2.0?

No prayer. Not when I'm busy talking about client-side image maps and
depending on Frames for Navigation. There's only one of me and I
can't do it all before the conference starts (Sept 18).

Before someone gets annoyed, give me a break, here. The hard copy
equivalent is close to 30 pages and may hit 50 before I'm done with it.
And the IEEE wants me to do _both_ the hard copy and the Web site
(backporting HTML, because my original proposal was for a Web site only).

Will I update the Web site?

You bet. But it's much more important to get lots of information to
most people _now_ then to wait until you can hit the entire market
3 months from now. It's too expensive of a process to build everything
all at once.

>You can construct a clickable map by using several different small
>graphics, each with its own ALT text.

That's pretty much what I do already, except for the ALT tags. BTW,
if you want a non-rectangular hotspot this way, then build a non-
rectangular graphic - and anchor it to one URL.

>The visual effect is the same

I disagree. You can visually draw connections in a graphic that
aren't possible in a TOC, or in a strictly hierarchical image map.

For example, the SPQR navigational technique is to ask the viewer
to visually wander through Ancient Rome looking for clues to a
mystery. Each page is thus an image map. Click on the steps in
the graphic and it takes you up the stairs to the next image map
(the second floor). Click to the left of the same graphic and
you're rotated to face the wall of the room you're in.

My historian friend was clued to my terminal for about an hour
before I got hungry enough to insist on dinner. It's that realistic.

Try: <*RaYF9fZ/twep/rome/>

> Wouldn't they prefer to be able to see the URL of the link the cursor
>is over, rather than some meaningless number?

A lot of people I talk to don't even know that the new URL is displayed
before they click. They just want to get to a new page that is somehow
associated with the icon or word they see. They like image maps because:

o They are visual learners

o The image map provides context, linking multiple pages into a whole.

>I don't like imagemaps, either. I think because designers (especially those
>coming from a graphic design background) are so easily tempted into throwing
>huge images at me.

This is a problem with the graphic - not the concept of image maps.
But don't try SPQR without a T1 line. (OTOH, SPQR is designed by Apple
for educational purposes, and schools can sometimes get free ISDN lines.)

If you find a technique that works for your purposes, use it. Browsers
are getting more sophisticated, not less. And the market for sophisticated
browsers is going up, not down.

Hit the biggest market you can now, then hit the next largest market you
can after that. If you've got oodles of time and/or money to design megazoid
Websites, then design for everyone and have a blast doing it.

And if you're in the later category, I envy you...

David (The Man) Blyth
Technical Writer & Web Site Designer

The usual disclaimers apply - QUALCOMM isn't that crazy.

Blodo Poa Maximus

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