Web Site Resolutions

Web Site Resolutions

With the flexibility available in programming HTML on the Web, designing pages in a fixed monitor resolution may seem impractical. Nevertheless, a number of reasons may motivate programmers to use a fixed screen resolution: emphasis of specific material, the easiness of programming in a fixed resolution, the desire to dictate how the Web page will appear. But every person viewing your site will have their own hardware, preferences and the like, so the most important factor to keep in mind is who the end users of their Web site will be.

Monitors and Resolutions

Virtually every monitor available today, regardless of size, allows the user to alter its resolution settings. The image seen on the computer screen is composed of thousands of pixels, each containing a small “piece” of the picture. The pixels are projected onto the monitor in horizontal lines that are then stacked vertically. As an example, a resolution of 640×480 is 640 pixels per line by 480 lines.

Generally speaking, the smaller the numbers are, the icons and text will be displayed larger (although Windows users can increase the text and icon display size through the “Settings-Display” menu). As the resolution numbers increase, type and icons will appear smaller, but sharper and with more detail. Larger resolution sizes also offer more desktop space.

To simplify, viewing a fixed Web site through a smaller resolution monitor would be like looking at a painting through a window smaller than the painting. You can still see part of the painting, but you have to adjust your view to see all of it. With larger resolutions, the “window” becomes larger, and you can see more, if not all of the painting.

As only 7% of Internet users are viewing the Web at 640×480, the current standard for fixed Web pages is 800×600. Monitors with higher resolutions (1600×1400, 1280×1024) will display a standard Web page as effectively as one at 800×600, but the page will appear smaller and more finely detailed. So 93% of Web surfers should be able to view a standard page in full without having to scroll horizontally.

However, even with a monitor set in 800×600 or higher, there are still several variables that can affect a site’s appearance. Newer versions of both Netscape and Internet Explorer have quick buttons for searches, e-mail or e-commerce that border a site’s content. Status bars for download times and site ratings can also occupy valuable space. This can alter the pixel size that will be utilized in displaying the page. Consequently, a monitor set at 800×600 may only devote 770×430 to displaying a Web site.

All of this makes it extremely important to consider the demographic that will be viewing your site. Will they be technically savvy and more likely to have high-end resolution monitors? Will they be likely to have a media player open to play MP3s or music CDs and thus decrease the desktop size of the browser and with it the Web page size?

Alternatives to FIxed Resolution

Obviously a fixed resolution Web site would not be appropriate in all circumstances. Several other options can make your site just as effective for each particular user while still conveying the intended message. Relative positioning is just one of this options.

In fixed resolution sites, the content is fixed to the page like a newspaper layout, and its appearance will not be altered based on monitor resolution. But by using relative positioning, the content can stretch or shrink to fill several diverse resolution settings. Positioning can be used to emphasize material in the center of the page, or in the side columns. Generally, more important should be placed in the lefthand column. When a site opens, it is automatically scrolled to the far left. Placing information here will ensure that it is the first thing a visitor sees.

Fully flexible pages stretch or shrink completely to best fill the user’s browser. While this offers the most fluid page, this can sometimes stretch type out to over 400 pixels across, which can adversely affect readability. As a result, content rich Web sites are rarely fully flexible.

A final solution yet is to create multiple versions of your Web site, each in a different resolution. You could then determine the user’s monitor resolution and automatically redirect them to the appropriate version using JavaScript. This disadvantage, of course, is the time, cost and complexity involved in creating multiple versions of a site.

Though technological innovations in Web page programming may allow a wide range of options, the best method is to first research the users of your site. All development decisions should be driven by their preferences. This will most effectively convey the intended message.

Raster Images vs. Vector Graphics

Raster Images vs. Vector Graphics

Computer graphics can be created as either raster or vector images. Raster graphics are bitmaps. A bitmap is a grid of individual pixels that collectively compose an image. Raster graphics render images as a collection of countless tiny squares. Each square, or pixel, is coded in a specific hue or shade. Individually, these pixels are worthless. Together, they’re worth a thousand words.

Raster graphics are best used for non-line art images; specifically digitized photographs, scanned artwork or detailed graphics. Non-line art images are best represented in raster form because these typically include subtle chromatic gradations, undefined lines and shapes, and complex composition.

However, because raster images are pixel-based, they suffer a malady called image degradation. Just like photographic images that get blurry and imprecise when blown up, a raster image gets jagged and rough. Why? Ultimately, when you look close enough, you can begin to see the individual pixels that comprise the image. Hence, your raster-based image of Wayne Newton, magnified to 1000%, becomes bitmapped before you can isolate that ravenous glint in his eye. Although raster images can be scaled down more easily, smaller versions often appear less crisp or “softer” than the original.

To maximize the quality of a raster image, you must keep in mind that the raster format is resolution-specific — meaning that raster images are defined and displayed at one specific resolution. Resolution in raster graphics is measured in dpi, or dots per inch. The higher the dpi, the better the resolution. Remember also that the resolution you actually observe on any output device is not a function of the file’s own internal specifications, but the output capacity of the device itself. Thus, high resolution images should only be used if your equipment has the capability to display them at high resolution.

Better resolution, however, comes at a price. Just as raster files are significantly larger than comparable vector files, high resolution raster files are significantly larger than low resolution raster files. Overall, as compared to vector graphics, raster graphics are less economical, slower to display and print, less versatile and more unwieldy to work with. Remember though that some images, like photographs, are still best displayed in raster format. Common raster formats include TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PCX and BMP files. Despite its shortcomings, raster format is still the Web standard — within a few years, however, vector graphics will likely surpass raster graphics in both prevalence and popularity.

Unlike pixel-based raster images, vector graphics are based on mathematical formulas that define geometric primitives such as polygons, lines, curves, circles and rectangles. Because vector graphics are composed of true geometric primitives, they are best used to represent more structured images, like line art graphics with flat, uniform colors. Most created images (as opposed to natural images) meet these specifications, including logos, letterhead, and fonts.

Inherently, vector-based graphics are more malleable than raster images — thus, they are much more versatile, flexible and easy to use. The most obvious advantage of vector images over raster graphics is that vector images are quickly and perfectly scalable. There is no upper or lower limit for sizing vector images. Just as the rules of mathematics apply identically to computations involving two-digit numbers or two-hundred-digit numbers, the formulas that govern the rendering of vector images apply identically to graphics of any size.

Further, unlike raster graphics, vector images are not resolution-dependent. Vector images have no fixed intrinsic resolution, rather they display at the resolution capability of whatever output device (monitor, printer) is rendering them. Also, because vector graphics need not memorize the contents of millions of tiny pixels, these files tend to be considerably smaller than their raster counterparts. Overall, vector graphics are more efficient and versatile. Common vector formats include AI, EPS, CGM, WMF and PICT (Mac).

Proofing Documents

Proofing Documents

The process of producing an accurate sample of a document or printed piece for internal or client review is called proofing. Composite proofing, also known as comprehensive proofing, is used in commercial printing and produces an output of the document’s images, line art and text elements. Off-press proofing checks for a document’s images, pagination and colors. In other words, how a document will look when it prints. Before sending a document to a printing press, proofread it for errors.

20 Proofreading Tips:

– Use a red pen to proofread and mark errors.
– Read the document forward, checking for proper grammar.
– Read the document backward, checking for misspellings.
– Check and recheck dates, names, addresses and phone numbers.
– Check headlines and subheadings.
– Check spacing and margins.
– Check photos and illustrations, and for correct captions.
– Check quotes and documentation.
– Check abbreviations and contractions.
– Check for doubled words, such as to to.
– Check fonts, punctuation and fragments.
– Check subject/verb agreement.
– Check nouns and verbs, and avoid slang words, unless appropriate, jargon, and cliches.
– Check for consistent verb tenses and voice.
– Check for paraphrasing.
– Read the document aloud. Ask someone else to read it aloud.
– Turn the document upside down to eliminate word distractions, then check it again.
– Note that spell check recognizes there, their and they’re as the same.
– When in doubt, reference a dictionary or thesaurus.
– Take a break and then proofread it again.

Conducting Market Research

Conducting Market Research

The Importance of Market Research

Brochures, tear sheets, business plans, marketing campaigns, direct mail, catalogs, reports and sales information sheets need to land in a writer’s in-box first. Researching the product or service before writing is the most important step, and is often ignored. So, what information should be studied prior to writing?

– What are the features and technologies of the product or service?
– How do the features benefit the consumer and what’s in it for them?
– What are the consumer advantages of using the product or service?
– What are the disadvantages and how does the manufacturer counter them?
– What is the product or service guarantee, such as repair and replacement guidelines?
– How does the product or service compete in the business market?

Understanding the product or service in-and-out is the first step. Next, who is the consumer, or target audience, of this product or service?

– What are the demographics, or external characteristics, of the target audience?
– What are the psychographics, or internal characteristics, of the target audience?
– What is the main concern to consumers about the product or service?
– What motivates the target audience to purchase the product or use the service?

Understanding the target audience on paper is one thing, but understanding how the target audience speaks, thinks and acts is another. Read the magazines the target audience subscribes to. Attend trade shows and review trade publications. Schedule a focus group, or request former transcripts. Writing for a target audience is very difficult without first conducting some research. There’s a huge difference between “faster shopping,” which is vague, and “faster shopping with more checkout lanes,” which focuses on how shopping is easier. Focus on what the target audience needs and answer how.

To answer how, you must know the difference between features and benefits. Features are characteristics helping the consumer differentiate between products or services in the market. Benefits show the consumer how the product or service features meet their needs.

Consumers want to know how a product or service can make them happier, richer, smarter or fitter than the average consumer. In order to measure results, first review the main focus of the campaign. The focus determines whether the campaign generates sales or inquiries, answers questions, establishes brand recognition, revamps brand identity, introduces products or services, or changes concepts.