The web site you created on Geocities back in ’00 or ’01 won’t cut it anymore. For one thing, you know you need high-quality graphics. Visitors’ expectations have skyrocketed in the past few years. But you also know your limits.
Maybe you’re a small businessperson. Maybe you have a family site. Maybe you’re a blogger. You’re definitely not a graphic designer. You don’t aspire to be one. You don’t know much about creating web graphics. And you’d rather not pay someone who does.
We have two pieces of good news. First, there are now tools that can help you create your own web graphics without embarrassing yourself. Second, there’s now a book to help you use them: Creating Web Graphics for Dummies by Bud Smith and Peter Frazier.
Smith coauthored the bestseller Creating Web Pages for Dummies, Sixth Edition (as well as several other Web-related ...For Dummies books -- notably, Web Usability for Dummies, possibly the most accessible usability guide ever written). Half a million folks have learned basic web skills from him. He and Frazier are masters of the ...For Dummies format: simple explanations of the stuff you that matters most, lots of pictures, and step-by-step explanations -- and no unnecessary jargon.
Creating Web Graphics for Dummies is rare among web graphics books in that it covers pretty much every category of visual -- from simple, “static” buttons and banners to photos, even Flash animations and digital video.
You’ll begin with a top-level overview of web graphics design. Smith and Frazier introduce formats like JPEG and GIF (each of which get complete chapters later in the book). They explain key concepts like page weight and optimization. Still in Chapter 1, you’ll even create some very simple web graphics with Microsoft Paint.
Speaking of GIF, you’ll learn how to use GIF interlacing to start displaying your images even before they’ve entirely downloaded; how to use transparency to blend your images directly into your backgrounds; and how to create simple GIF animations. (Yup, they’re old-fashioned, but they’re still the easiest way to get motion onto your pages). There’s also practical coverage of Web-safe palettes and dithering.
You’ll especially learn how to shrink images for fast download (still important even in the alleged “age of broadband”). As the authors observe, any fool can compress an image, but “actually choosing appropriate tradeoffs between what you’re trying to accomplish with a given photo, image size, file size, and image quality is an art that can’t yet be referred to as lost, because [it’s rarely] been found.”
Perhaps most useful for the web graphics beginner: the authors’ “Ten Graphics Tips for Business Web Sites.”
Not sure which new graphics tools you want to invest in? No sweat: the accompanying CD contains trial versions of several of the best -- including Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Flash, and JASC Paint Shop Pro. (You’ll also find plenty of clip art examples to fool with.)
Creating Web Graphics for Dummies won’t make you a graphics professional, but it will help you create the visuals you need to communicate effectively -- and that’s all you really want, isn’t it? Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.