Design & Publishing  /  WEB Design Department

A steal at $39.95

WebDesign & Review
Interviews:
Susan Merritt
author of the

WebDesignWOW
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Susan Merritt author, graphics professional and web design guru... most notedly an author of our Editors' Choice book this month: "WebDesign WOW" from Peachpit press. Susan studied graphic design, photography, and film at the Basel School of Design in Basel, Switzerland, with such great teachers as Armin Hofmann, André Gürtler, Wolfgang Weingart, Peter von Arx, and Kurt Hauert.

WebDesign & Review:
Greetings, Susan, and thank you for being with us today.
Gosh! I don't even know where to begin. The Web Design WOW book is a knock out -- and I'm predicting a million-seller by the end of the year. I'd really like to talk about every section in detail, but I know you don't have much time.
Before we dive into the book, let's first get acquainted. What a great opportunity to study in Europe.

Susan:
It was a great experience. I really enjoyed living and traveling in Europe.
I've been working as a designer and teaching for just a little over 20 years. Currently I am an associate professor in the School of Art, Design and Art History at San Diego State University where I teach graphic design classes and coordinate the internship program.
I live in a 1912 craftsman-style home with my husband and our 16 year old son. We collect craftsman furniture and other paraphernalia from that vintage. I also enjoy designing and creating one-of-a-kind handmade books.

WebDesign & Review:
Susan let's talk about the book. The WD WOW book is one of the best we've seen on creative and functional web design. What was your favorite part of putting together the book?

Susan:
My favorite part was definitely interviewing people for the case studies. It was so interesting to go "behind the scenes" and to learn about the unique demands of each project and how designers and programmers (or coders) met each challenge. This is really what we felt would interest readers and be a good way to learn and be inspired.

WebDesign & Review:
Yes... you've inspired us for sure! I had a hard time deciding which sites from the book to visit first. How did you decide which sites to show? There are so many great sites!

Susan:
We looked for diverse solutions to a variety of problems. We also included some outstanding CD-ROM and floppy disk projects that demonstrate good design and problem solving.

WebDesign & Review:
Okay, I'll tell you my favorite section of the book if you'll share yours. I know you must have a favorite ... or at least one that you think is most important.

Susan:
Oh that's a hard question!
Chapter 1 focuses on an overview of the production process, chapter 2 presents a list of 15 interface components, and chapter 3 offers five design reminders. Chapters 4 through 10 are full of case studies (over 50) categorized into seven topics: Marketing, Entertainment, Tools and Applications, Education and Training, Publishing, Portfolios and Presentations, and Sales. There are so many great examples in all of the chapters. Like a Web site, the book is designed to allow readers to take a linear or a nonlinear approach. Information within sections is designated to either one or two pages so content can be easily accessed.

WebDesign & Review:
Being active in our local K-12 public school system, I particularly enjoyed the "Educational & Training" chapter. You seemed to concentrate on 'full-screen' metaphor sites. I loved your insights into the National Geographic "Fantastic Forest" (pp 130) and Amazonia (pp 140) sites. Do you see this "full screen" trend taking over?

Susan:
Not necessarily. I think it depends on the specific problem. For example, if it's important to always have a consistent navigation bar present as visitors to the site link to other pages, then incorporating a separate panel that remains on screen at all times would be important. In the case of National Geographic's Fantastic Forest, the green background provides an overall uniform look but the screen is actually built with borderless HTML frames that divide the screen into 3 different content areas. One thing that's neat about this site is that the designers at Second Story used JavaScript to create a separate window from the browser window. This allows the screen layout to be viewed as it was designed and achieves the CD-ROM-like effect that they were striving for.

WebDesign & Review:
Do you see more educational institutions are getting better access these days or are the high bandwidth, heavy graphic sites geared primarily for the home user?

Susan:
Did you get any insight as to whether or not educational institutions are getting better access these days? Or are high bandwidth, heavy graphic sites directed primarily at the home or corporate user with speedy connections and CPU horsepower?
The site cccnet.com (page 144) was designed to teach teachers how to incorporate the Internet into their classrooms. The site supports teachers and students by providing curriculum suggestions and projects and a chat area for teachers to share ideas and information. And nationalgeographic.com provides a lot of educational materials which are used in the schools. So based on these examples I would say that the schools continue to become better equipped and to incorporate the Internet into the classroom. As technology improves --not only bandwidth, but computers and development tools, as well--we'll continue to see more and more graphics and sound incorporated into Web sites. A good example is myrrh.com (Myrrh Records) whose site was built using Macromedia Flash. But many sites are still developed with multiple options depending on the capability of the computer you're using.

WebDesign & Review:
Did you discover features or characteristics of the sites in the book that you actually didn't like?

Susan:
Well, scrollbars are an interface element to use with caution. They can be clumsy in a layout. I appreciate the solution that Landor used in the grants.com site. The scrollbar was consciously placed on the far right edge of the screen in order to hide it. Since English is read from left to right, we favor the left side of the screen and the right side takes on less importance. Another feature that can be frustrating is having to go through too many steps (or clicks) to get to your destination.

WebDesign & Review:
I always like to ask: what features do you dislike most about web pages these days?

Susan:
The snail's pace, especially when the site hasn't been designed and coded for efficiency.

WebDesign & Review:
Favorites?

Susan:
Access to a lot of information, although it can be overwhelming at times. It was great to see designers get involved in the Web because they bring a lot of value to the organization and presentation of the information, which in turn makes content more memorable and accessible.

WebDesign & Review:
I think that's tops on everyone's list. Any favorite WEB haunts you'd like to share?

Susan:
The kahlua.com site that was designed by cow. is a really imaginative and fun site. And studioarchetype.com is well organized and uses good design principles of information architecture. I'm impressed with qaswa.com and the use of implied depth. You'll also see a clever way of inviting visitors to adjust their browser windows at this site. Take a look at sundancefilm.com for its expressive use of typography. And startribune.com/aids for a powerful use of photography to tell an emotional story.

WebDesign & Review:
What's next on the agenda for Susan? New books? Speaking engagements?

Susan:
Catching my breath and promoting the book.
New books? Maybe. Right now, my coauthor Jack Davis is already hard at work with Linnea Dayton on The Photoshop 5 Wow! Book.
Speaking engagements?
Yes, Jack and I are both doing a lot of talking about the book these days. We are very proud of The Web Design Wow! Book and enjoy sharing it with others.

WebDesign & Review:
Susan, I know you're busy so I'll turn you lose... any final tidbit of advice for the new web designer you'd like to pass along?

Susan:
Yes, Fred: Surround yourself with good support people. Think about your audience, and design to meet their needs and the goals of the project. Plan everything out well in advance and resolve as many issues as you can before starting construction. It's like remodeling a house: you want to have all the blueprints drawn and the appliances, hardware, and all the materials there and ready to go before the contractor walks through the door! Good planning and thorough preparation can save a lot of time, money and frustration later on.

WebDesign & Review:
Thank you Susan, it's been a wonderful chat. You've got a real winner with The Web Design Book, and I know anyone who gets it will be greatly enriched by it. Best wishes on this and future books.

Susan:
Thank you, Fred. It has been great to be able to tell your readers more about The Web Design Wow! Book.

Folks, if you plan to be the best web designer you can be, take a minute and order The Web Design Wow! Book. It's available in major bookstores and can be ordered on-line in The Design & Publishing Center at http://www.graphic-design.com/bookshelf/ where it still tops our "Editor's Choice" feature selection. You can also learn more about it at http://www.peachpit.com/wow.

Thanks for reading.




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