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August 25, 1998


Crystal Waters on graphics

Madhuri Velegar K at Pragati Maidan

Email this story to a friend. Back to IIW coverage index. On the heels of Hunt's lecture on creating Web sites came Crystal Waters, author and consultant to state universities in the US. She spoke on the importance of graphics on a Web site.

"Graphic design and graphics are different," began the diminutive lady who started her career in publishing but moved on to computers that she found were "more fun".

She also carried forward a lot of print and publishing principles into designing Web sites.

The Waters lecture was peppered with examples from her hands-on experience in designing and she gave valuable tips to the audience that had a fair number of Web designers asking all kinds of questions.

"People, I've observed, tend to look at a Web page in a zee format, that is, their eyes move from top left, down the page, then move further downwards and end in a horizontal line. Leading the eye to places you want them to see is crucial," she said.

"To illustrate the product feature, to illustrate the story examples or to show the skill and mastery of the artist if that's what your Web site is about," are reasons to use graphics on a Web page," she said.

Two important tips that Waters stressed on were that the entire page, including graphics, should be less than 40K and animated graphics, though they look cute take longer to load.

Waters said "One has to take into account that not everybody has fast machines. You have to account for slower modems and older computers. Huge graphics take much longer to load, something which can put off someone searching for some tiny bit of information."

Web publishing and print publishing are the two areas that could interface depending on the way you use the mediums.

While print publishing uses the column and grid structure faithfully, it's something even a Web designer can adopt to bring structure to the page, she said.

Besides this, Web publishing is more interactive, could offer loads of information, provide instant gratification and is very economical.

Waters continued her discussion on graphics later through the afternoon when she spoke on the use of icons that worked as metaphors and universal symbols the world over. These included icons like mailboxes and musical note.

However, Gautami Dutt of AM System Technology, who was in the audience, felt that "We all possess common sense and know about the basic concepts involved in setting up a Web page. She could have shared case studies of good graphic design and clear some of the difficulties in using different kinds of software. That would have been enlightening."

Waters went on to do just that when she listed a few Web sites for the participants to check into for ideas. They were:, (Waters own Web site where she used a hybrid colour backgroud innovatively),, and

Delving into the psychology of using certain icons familiar to certain cultures and communities is also an important way of seeing Web design. She said "Door knobs, tea kettle handle, sink taps, familiar everyday items of our life, all operate in a certain way. It would make sense to retain those ways for easy navigability."

Consistency is the key to an effective design. Simplicity in conveying information is effective. For instance, Hewlett Packard, which everybody knows sells printers, had no mention of the word on their home page, except in one corner was written 'peripherals'. So though the Web site recorded 500 hits a day, only 25 carried on further till after 8 to 10 clicks they got what they wanted.

But HP recognised the path they moved and changed the word 'peripherals' to 'printers' and thereafter out of the 500 who clicked on their site, 490 moved further.

Back to IIW coverage index. In conclusion, however, Waters said "Content would always be more important than graphics and that graphics is only an enhancement to your information, except, of course, you are in the business of art. Still, even I rely on text links to move forward and use minimal and judicious use of icons on my Web site."

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