Creating Dynamic Web Sites: A Webmaster's Guide to Interactive Multimedia

Creating Dynamic Web Sites: A Webmaster's Guide to Interactive Multimedia

by Scott Fisher

Fisher's innovative approach first considers the audience - the human being on the other side of the screen - before he guides you through the bewildering array of technical and design issues that confront every Webmaster. An understanding of the psychology of user interaction enables you to plan graphics-intensive, highly interactive Web pages that are right for your…  See more details below


Fisher's innovative approach first considers the audience - the human being on the other side of the screen - before he guides you through the bewildering array of technical and design issues that confront every Webmaster. An understanding of the psychology of user interaction enables you to plan graphics-intensive, highly interactive Web pages that are right for your audience and for your product or service. By following test cases and samples, walking through a simple Java applet, and viewing a demonstration of turning a Macromedia Director title into a Shockwave movie, you'll discover how to make audio and video look and sound the best on most platforms, which 3D graphics to buy, which technologies are the best bets for the future, and - most important - how to design pages that will draw viewers back again and again.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is an excellent follow-up to Snell's book (below). Fisher combines low-level considerations that all web developers face, such as the need for scanners and the integration of sound and video, with three exceptional chapters on interaction with animation, story, and real human beings. The story chapter is worth the price of the book. People tend to forget about story in the mad rush for interaction; Fisher reminds us that buttons that blink are no substitute for narrative.

Product Details

Addison Wesley Professional
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.34(w) x 9.06(h) x 0.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Interacting with Graphics

Say It in Pictures

Pictures make Web sites exciting. They add visual interest, attract return viewers, convey emotional impact, communicate your message, and fundamentally they're just cool things to have in your page. And unlike some other media, pictures--whether scanned photographs or custom, computer-generated imagery--don't have to be executed, rewound, or restarted: they wait on the screen until someone selects another hyperlink or hits the Go Back button.

Like text, a good picture conveys its message automatically and continually, without requiring the user to do anything to it. In Chapter 7, we'll look at some additional reasons why, and cases when, pictures are really the right choice for the message you want to convey.

But if you're not careful, the way you use pictures can make your Web site frustrating, difficult to use, and annoying--in short, an experience that people won't want to repeat. And the factors that determine the success or failure of your images start from the moment you begin laying out your image, continue through the process of capturing it, and finally come home to roost when you choose how you store it to transfer to your Web site.

This chapter explores the following important questions related to your interaction with graphics over the Web:

  • What is the nature of interaction, not merely as a word meaning point and click, but as an understanding of the dynamics of an entire Web site?
  • What is good design, not only from the standpoint of how an image conveys information, but also from the standpoint of performance?
  • What principles of photography--from the film you use to theway you place the lights--can help you get the best results in your Web site?
  • How can you use a scanner not simply as a tool for getting pictures into the computer, but as a support for the overall performance of your Web page?

Chapter 2
Three Dimensions

If you really want your Web site to get the attention of readers under 18-20 years old, you'd better prepare to include lots of three-dimensional imagery. That's the single most-requested topic by everyone that I've talked to or taught about the Web, between the ages of roughly 10 and 18 or so.

But what is involved in getting a 3D image to play over the Web? What are some of the techniques you can use to add the illusion of depth to your Web site? When is it worth the extra effort to make this happen? And how can you learn about it without spending a pile of money on software or programming?

In this chapter, I'll walk you through what's involved in adding your own 3D "virtual world" to your Web site--without spending a cent (apart from dialup time). We'll start with a site where you can download a free, save-disabled demo version of a 3D image editor--but one that lets you output code in the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), the HTML of the third dimension. And I'll show you how to create, save, and apply your own texture maps to the images you create. (I'll also explain what a "texture map" is, in case you haven't worked that phrase out for yourself yet.)

I'll also give you a brief tour of some QuickTime VR sites. QuickTime VR is really not 3D, but rather a way of creating 360-degree panoramas, yet crucially, all non-Webmasters who see this think of it as being a kind of 3D. They certainly see it as a killer tool for 3D virtual environments, for example. So we'll look at the sites currently available for QTVR, as it's known, and discuss a few of the issues involved in this not-yet-mature technology.

Chapter 3
Digital Video for the Web

Nothing says "multimedia" like video. Animation, audio, and interactive images all have their place, but watching movies on your computer--whether they''re clips from the latest animated feature on or shots from your company picnic on your employee home page--makes it completely clear that the Web is a new kind of publishing medium altogether.

Video is to multimedia what elephants are to the circus: without either one, all you've got is a tent full of clowns. But like the elephants, video takes up an enormous amount of space, requires meticulous care and feeding, and can turn on its trainer if not carefully watched.

Shooting good-looking video is an art form in itself. But within that art form, there are additional concerns regarding shooting video for digital playback, especially at the comparatively low frame rates required by the technical constraints of the Web. These concerns include lighting, the nature of the motion you choose to capture, the colors of objects in the foreground and background, the speed of pans and zooms used in the video clip, and several other concerns that greatly affect how good a piece of digital video looks when played back on the average computer. We''ll look at how you can tame these particular wild elephants later in this chapter.

In addition to the "normal" digitizing issues, making video for the Web introduces a powerful new concern about file size, download time, and its effect on playback and performance. Digital video meant for playback over the Web may also mean making multiple versions of the video source available, or at least pointing your users to public-domain video playback software, to compensate for the different kinds of players, platforms, and Web browsers that your users will be expected to have.

Furthermore, you can use video in your Web pages in two ways: as files to be downloaded explicitly to play later, or (for Netscape users) as embedded images that automatically load when someone clicks on your URL. In this chapter, we''ll help you decide which approach works best for you, and what factors you need to consider when adding video to HTML.

Chapter 4
Interacting with Animation

If digital video is to multimedia what the elephants are to the circus, then animation has to be the trapeze act: flashy, entertaining, and seemingly something that ordinary mortals could never attempt. Yet with digital tools, animation can be tremendously simple. And with the advent of the Shockwave technology rising out of Macromedia''s popular Director program, your animation can provide game-quality response, interactivity, and speed in a Web-based application.

In this chapter, we'll look at:

  • Three technologies for creating animation you can use in your Web page (animated GIFs, Java, and Director/Shockwave)
  • Three different techniques for creating animation (point-to-point, path-based, and frame-by-frame animation)
  • Strategies for maximizing the speed, performance, and interactivity of your animations while minimizing load time
You don't need to be a programmer to use the technologies I present in this chapter. The most advanced, programming-like part we'll cover is the Lingo scripting language used to control interactivity in your Shockwave applications, but that's really no more difficult than HTML. And if you are looking to hire out a multimedia developer for the content and you're simply planning to integrate their work into your Web site, you'll be happy to know that incorporating Shockwave and Java into your Web page is no more complicated than embedding video or still images.

Furthermore, the Web site associated with this book includes several Java applets and Shockwave files that you can use in testing your own integration of animation and interactivity with your traditional Web documents and structure. It also includes step-by-step tutorials showing you how to use these resources--which you can download for your practice--in your own Web pages. And fortunately, because Director is fully cross--platform compatible between Windows and Macintosh, the Shockwave files here run equally well whether you display them on an Apple product or a PC. And as Netscape introduces the Shockwave plug-in for other platforms, this group of users will grow rapidly.

Most important, both Shockwave and Java really point to a new model of computer use, in which the programs as well as the information are distributed across the Web itself, rather than being loaded into each user's workstation. This distributed model of the Web--putting the complex stuff on your user's workstations, where it can run quickly and efficiently with the least transfer of information across the Internet--is a fundamentally new way of dealing with the Web that promises to provide faster response, more complex interaction, and less intrusion of the control structure into the user's immersive on-line experience (which is expanded on in Chapter 5).

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