Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Textbook Conclusion

Chapter 16 of White Space is Not Your Enemy and Chapter 9 of Writing for the Web are the "wrap up" chapters. They give a nice little summary of what you've learned, answer some additional questions, and point you on your way to additional learning.

Their main point?

You have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg.

You are never really done learning in your chosen field.

These books are great for what they are, but they are not advanced knowledge, and you can't learn all there is to know about writing or designing for the web in a single book. It takes lots of practice, and lots of other books, and lots of time. And then lots more time relearning things when monumental technology, software, etc. is released. The only thing worse than knowing nothing is knowing enough to think you know it all, and royally messing up your projects.

With the huge amount of resources out there on the web, there's really no excuse for not knowing. If you can't learn by reading, learn by watching YouTube videos or downloading trial editions of software. See what others are doing, and see if you can mimic it to learn. See what others are doing badly, figure out why it's bad, and don't do it. Sign up for a newsletter, ezine, or magazine. Finally, there are plenty of creative communities out there - Livejournal communities and DeviantArt, among the hundreds - to help you hone your skills, see others' work, and get tips.

Multimedia for the Web

Chapter 13 of White Space is Not Your Enemy discusses multimedia. The thought of images, video, encoding, audio, interactive content, and animation can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. There are (free) tutorials online for just about about any program you'd want to use to create these things, ranging from the simple to the advanced. If you're totally lost, you can also sign up for classes at your local library (usually very basic, but free) or college/university (IPFW offers a class called Digital Imaging; the section I took worked mostly with image creation and manipulation in Adobe Photoshop, with some basic animation). If you're a tactile learner, you can just plop down with your laptop, favorite drink, and favorite TV show/music and work until you figure it out.

Here are some tips I've found along the way:
  • Don't lose important text in images. If you put the text within the image file, the search engine can't see it. Make sure it's somewhere else on the page, too.
  • Pay attention to encoding. There is plenty of free software out there to help you, but it may take you a while to figure it out. Don't just assume the video will work since you uploaded it with a trusted service.
  • Don't add something shiny just for the sake of shininess. Your visitors will see right through it and think you're an idiot with something to prove. Cool and innovative things are great, but use them in moderation and always with a purpose.
  • Quality, quality, quality. If it's not great, don't put it up. A simple, mostly-text based website will rule out over one with bad graphics and poor videos.
  • Get friends. Network with others who have skills you can use, and want to use your skills. If you're a graphic designer and your friend is a musician, you can use each other's work to spice up your webpages. Then, attribute each other on the webpages - increasing both of your website's traffic and backlinks.
  • Get honest friends. While support from friends and family is great, you really need at least one person who will tell you when things suck and you need to re-do them.
  • Keep your audience in mind at all times. Some audience you will need to wow with extra special graphics. Some you will intimidate with them.
  • Social media sharing buttons are good interactive content - and good traffic bringers.