Writing in the Web Environment
A person’s mind works in a random and haphazard way when one thinks but when using the net to read and surf, there are still certain things that should be kept simple and easily accessible. Do not use too many colours and blurry drop shadows, as these may become overpowering and confuse users even more. Write clearly and use short, simple and familiar words, rather than abstract words or computer terminology.
Also, any experience from surfing on the net will reinforce the fact that no users like to wait long hours for downloading, so, do not use big and slow graphics. One does not require huge graphics to make pages on the web attractive and eye catching. Keeping in mind also that every user has different systems; writers should not create oversized pages but should design for 480 by 640 pixel monitors.
Each reader has their own individual needs when reading hypertexts and users browse a web of topics. By creating hyperlinks and offering choice to various references that the reader can exercise at every moment in the act of reading, it allows the reader to make their own meanings. In addition, they will feel good and not feel the same inertia that pulls one through the pages of a printed book. It also gives them a sense of control and autonomy. This is something which economists are now calling "market segmentation". (Bolter, 1991)
With the onset of being able to decide one’s path in a hypertext and the interactivity of the Internet, it is important therefore, to design for jumping in the middle. No writer can anticipate the endless number of possibilities of approaching a topic but it is important that one does not carry the same idea of a beginning, middle and end structure, like that of writing for the printed book. Encouraging alternatives and adding in other options will not make the reader more active and not feel like the author is dominating him.
Disorientation, as mentioned before, can be seen in contrasting lights. Many have taken it as dis-enabling because it confuses the reader. If seen from this angle, the writer should then ensure that sufficient orientation and navigation information are provided (e.g. through the smart use of colours or headings) so that the reader knows where the points of entry and exit are and the paths that have been taken. Transitions should also be made clearly and summaries provided at the beginning of each page.
This may not be the case now. Many of us can admit to having end up somewhere else in e-space (whether related or not) when we surfed the net for something in particular and have, in fact, enjoyed it! This is what Landow writes about – aesthetic disorientation – in which disorientation is seen as freedom and the love of possibilities. Looking at this aspect of disorientation then, writers no longer have to see disorientation as a problem or crippling and can design pages to intentionally get the readers lost.
It is important to remember that there are many options available on the vast space we call ‘cyberspace’ out there and readers get easily distracted. It is therefore a continuing challenge to organize information and to create connections across ideas and domains of knowledge. Of importance also, is not only to keep readers in your site but to also keep them coming back to your site at a later time.