Moderator: Sam Duncan, Amon Carter Museum
Sam opened the session by welcoming everyone and making announcements. After everyone had been introduced, Sam invited the attendees to write an article related to the discussion for inclusion in Art Documentation.
The discussion opened with beauty on the web, a topic that began on ARLIS-L prior to the conference. In connection with the list discussion, Lee Sorensen has put links from the ARLIS homepage to some well-designed sites discussed on the listserv. Some of the interesting sites people had found were discussed, as well as what makes a good web site. Web site design should be a balance between design and functionality. A good site incorporates content and aesthetics successfully taking full advantage of the medium. Looking at other sites, and publications such as ID Magazine, can expand our thinking.
Recognizing or rewarding outstanding sites in some way was discussed. It was suggested that ARLIS might consider having an award for outstanding web sites, or “ARLIS Recommended” sites. Other organizations (VRA and Museums and the Web) have “Best of the Web” awards. Offering recognition for well-designed sites would provide more visibility for ARLIS as well. This would be something the Awards Committee would need to address, as well as the Board.
Lee Sorensen talked a little about the ARLIS web site and said he felt it should be more of a link to other sites. He suggested that a template for the pages keeps a site’s appearance more unified. Lee announced that he will be stepping down as the web administrator for ARLIS.
Lack of training is one issue facing web developers. Most have learned on the fly and have little experience, and they are expected to develop and maintain a web site in addition to their other duties. We are beginning to see some job ads for web administrators, but they are still few and far between.
There are a number of drawbacks associated with the web. Images are a particular problem, especially copyright issues and standards. Limiting access, licensing, and related issues pose problems for webmasters. Also, users need to learn how to better evaluate the sites they find.
Many factors must be considered when designing web pages. Because of the variety and varying capabilities of browsers, and the desire to make the web pages more accessible, many sites are designed with a simple first pages that will download quickly; flip can be too much—often overwhelming, and browser sniffing is sometimes a compromise. One new trend for web pages is customized service based pages according to where the user is coming from by using cookies and a profiling system.
Some of the tools on the market to aid in web design were discussed.
A few included: Dreamweaver (by Macromedia) offers a suite of products,
Adobe Image Styler writes the Java script, Fireworks is good for graphics,
and Flash provides browser plug-ins. There are a number of products
that use vector based graphics that download a formula for the graphic
rather than pixels, this allows the image to adjust to the screen.