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Social Psychology of Web Architecture:

- OR -

How I Stopped Worrying & Learned to Love the Web

Table of Contents Link Index
Introduction:What You Will Find Here

Web Designer Principles As I See It:
From Learning HTML to Designing Your Web Page

Psychological Aspects to Web Design:
You Are Not Alone

What It's Like to Become a Web Designer:
Through Trial and Error

Annotated Index to Web Design:
And Yet MORE Links!

Psy 409b
Leslie Francis
Macmillian's HTML Workshop
Jeffrey Glover (1)
Web Design Group
CanLink's Help Desk
HTML Goodies
Legalities
Diane Nahl
Dr. Leon James (1)
Jeffrey Glover (2)
Dr. Leon James (2)

Introduction:
What You Will Find Here


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Had you arrived at this page via web searching the topics of social psychology, web architecture, or Hawaii, please note that this page does not offer any information on Hawaii (state statistics, tourist info, etc.) OR indepth analyses of social psychology or web architecture. This paper is intended to guide you through my first experience of making a web page. I am not an expert at this (by all means), so please take all information provided with a grain of salt. There are, however, links to webmasters' pages which offer more professional advice to successful web page design. If you are just beginning to learn HTML and would like to make a GREAT first web page, this paper may be of some help. Keep in mind that a successful web page is one that is looked at, which not only involves proper web designing principles, but some understanding of social psychology as well (for instance, "What makes people want to visit a web page?"). I also encourage you to visit my classmates' pages for more information (just click on a name and look for Paper #2 -- this will link you to more pages like this one). You can also e-mail me, Leslie Francis, by clicking on my name or using the e-mail button provided at the bottom.

Remember, YOU CAN DO IT! Believe me, when I first started making my home page I was really intimidated by all of the various things you need to do. However, I soon learned that it was rather easy and not complicated at all. Keep in mind that everything these days involves some form of computer use, and the Internet is becoming more and more popular each day. So, the sooner you start learning, the better!


Web Designer Principles As I See It:
From Learning HTML to Designing Your Page


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LEARNING HTML (Skip this section if you are already familiar with HTML)

If you are just starting and do not know where to turn -- gazing at those huge HTML books makes you feel like it's not worth it -- I recommend Macmillan's HTML Workshop. This is not a particularly good web site as they are mostly trying to sell their book(s), but it has a great summary on how to begin your web page. Here is a sample of their simple and easy to follow advice:

"An HTML document is like any other document you'd write -- it has a beginning, a middle and an end. In fact, one of the simplest ways to go about writing a web page is to write the material you'd like to appear in your page and then add the styles later. By doing this, you can devote all of your creative powers into writing, rather than jumping back and forth between authoring and trying to remember which tag makes text bold or which kind of link you need to access an external resource. Try it!"

I found this to be the best source of easily understandable information, which doesn't take too long to go through. This site offers instructions for those either beginning, intermediate, and advanced, and from start to finish you could finish going through these in less than a few hours. As you are able to create in a very short period of time, you will develop the self-confidence to go on and learn more. They also provide a large list of HTML Newsgroups -- very helpful. Macmillian's HTML Workshop doesn't have very elaborate information, but the point is for you to get started.

It wouldn't be fair not to tell you about web editors -- which are software programs that build web pages for you. The good thing about them is that they actually write the HTML code for you, and can add icons, pictures, frames, etc., anywhere you want them to be. The bad thing about them is that they sometimes rewrite code over and over, causing your files to be much larger than they need to be. Also, it is much better for you to learn the codes yourself -- knowledge is power. However, there are many different web editors out on the market today. Here is a list of the latest personal web-page editors, as well as a rating of which are the best according to PC Magazine, (actual date of article, March 4, 1997):

PRODUCT NAME Simple Page Creation - Power Simple Page Creation - Ease Complex Page Creation - Power Complex Page Creation - Ease
Microsoft Front Page 97 Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
AOLpress Excellent Fair Excellent Fair
Claris Home Page Excellent Fair Good Fair
Corel Web Designer Excellent Excellent Good Excellent
Microsoft Publisher 97 Good Excellent Fair Good
MyInternetBusinessPage Fair Good Poor Poor
Netscape Composer Good Excellent Fair Good
WebExpress Good Good Excellent Fair
Web Factory Author Excellent Good Good Good

When considering purchasing any piece of software, keep in mind the following questions: "What do I want this software to do?", "Do I have enough room on my computer for this piece of software?", "Have I spoken with others who have already purchased and used this piece of software?", etc. From my own experience, I have a few friends who have used Microsoft FrontPage 97 -- voted Editor's Choice by PC Magazine -- and it did not perform to their expectations. In fact, it screwed with their files and in one case crashed a computer! Be wary of things coming too easily.


DESIGNING YOUR WEB PAGE


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After learning some basics of web making, you will want to go on to web designing. There are many different web sites where you can learn about good designing techniques. You can use Jeff Glover's advice on sucky and savvy techniques. He incorporates various links leading you to his opinions on the best techniques. For the past two years he has been, "gathering feedback from internet surfers about what they think Sucks and what they think is Savvy." It is important to also note that he indicates that, "This Web Site is only a guide for those looking for some direction. Good design is a matter of your personal taste and style, not someone elses!" The following is a synopsis of what you will find on his page, as well as some comments on what I learned:

SUCKY THINGS

1. Blink - Blinking text is not even used in infomercials anymore! (e.g., Raindance Video)
2. Auto Background Music/Sounds - I disagree with Jeff, sometimes it's useful and fun.
3. Loud Background Images - Totally agree. If you can't read it, why go there? Eye strain.
4. Frames - If you have THAT large of a list, make another page. Frames definitely suck.
5. Image Maps - Pictures or parts of pics you can click on and go there. Large, but useful.
6. Construction Signs - Thought they were cute the FIRST time I saw them.
7. Scrolling Marquees/Banners - I agree, they're annoying and distracting to read.
8. Ticker-Tape Bars - Definitely agree! I'd like to see the site address instead!

SAVVY THINGS -- TAKE NOTE!

1. Flexible Window Widths - Don't ask people to resize their screens to view your page!
2. Thumbnail Graphics - Faster to load, easier to choose, and more room on the page for info.
3. Height & Width Tags - Browser knows how much space for your graphic(s). Less refresh.
4. ALT Tag Your Images - Less wait time. Great!
5. Include Contact Info - A necessary evil -- if you put your face out there, you need to!
6. Be Unique - See "Sucky Things #6".
7. Optional Plug-Ins - If you don't wanna limit yourself to viewers, make plug ins optional.

Also well worth visiting is WDG's (Web Design Group) help link, which provides good information on how to create, "Web sites that can be used by every person on the Internet, regardless of browser, platform, or settings." Although you may not understand the implications of these terms yet, you will soon learn that not all browsers are the same, and platforms and settings are determined by each Internet surfer. Since you want people to be able to view your page as you made it, WDG's is a site WELL worth visiting. They also provide guides to basic web designing thought processes, which make good sense regarding organization. This example is a little long, but it's definitely worth reading:

"The great thing about the WWW is the ability to create crosslinks, find documents with search engines, and follow topics in ways not foreseen by the author. It is important that you establish a clear structure for your site. If your readers cannot figure out how your site is organized, they will soon become disoriented and go elsewhere. A tree structure is often a good way to organize a site.

Using the tree model for a Web site, each "leaf" represents a document, and a branch represents a link to that document. The main index then forms the root of the tree, and offers a route to each document. It is not guaranteed that this index will be the only way to reach a document! A reader can always bookmark a file, or locate it with a search engine and then go there directly. Make sure that each document can be used out of context."

I highly recommend that you visit them after you have some basics down. It is, in my opinion, an excellent site. They offer a FAQ (frequently asked questions) archive, which includes FEP (frequently encountered problems), as well as a section on design elements and a, "handy list of RGB Color Codes." What is also impressive is their HTML Help BBS link. Here you can find others who may be able to help you or who may have the same problems that you are encountering.

Search the Internet for other web sites, such as CanLink's Help Desk and HTML Goodies for more information and guidance. Also, as there are many questions being brought out regarding what can be said and done on the Internet, I also recommend that you visit SSRN.com for the latest on legalities regarding the Internet (thanks to Diane Nahl for hooking me up to this site).


Psychological Aspects to Web Design:
You Are Not Alone


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Now that you've looked through many, many sites regarding web page design, what do you do now? Who do you trust? Whose advice do you follow? Which individual is right? Who decides what's right? Well, it is ultimately your decision, however there are some basics you must follow. As I said in the Introduction, there are many psychological aspects which are apparent in good web design. A good place to start, for obvious reasons, is with my instructor's page on Social Psychological Principles of Home Page Architecture (Dr. Leon James, Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa). He indicates that:

"We need to look at our Home Pages with an objective eye. In general, we try to achieve two important results with a Home Page. One is that it should be clear (unconfusing), informative and useful. The other is that it should be beautiful, with a creative and entertaining style. These two aspects can be discussed as the informational and stylistic features of Home Pages.

As for my own experience in putting up my home page (see my home page link at the bottom of this report), I put a LOT of time and effort into thinking about the following questions, which you too should consider analyzing before you begin:

(1) WHY DO YOU WANT TO PUT UP A WEB PAGE? There are many reasons for wanting to put up a web home page -- to spread knowledge, to get to know others, to expand your business, etc. In my case, I needed to put up a home page for a class at U.H. According to Dr. James, it is difficult to explain why one would, '...call a bunch of computer files on my drive by the name of "my house" or "my home"...I don't use the term "my home" for just any bunch of computer files around. But these particular files are connected to the Internet. This means that millions of people could look at them, at any time, and read them, or copy them to their own computer. In fact any navigator in cyberspace who lands on your Home Page can copy them at the flick of the mouse. For all I know my Home Page, or sections thereof, can have thousands of duplicates of itself all around the world.' Just as Dr. James is saying that any group of files is NOT a home page unless they accommodate WHY you wanted to put up a home page in the first place, whatever you ARE trying to say will dictate to some degree or another the structure of your home page. This structure not only involves design, but links as well.

Now that you have established what it is that you want to accomplish with your web site, the next problem to tackle is how do you intend to accomplish it.

(2) HOW DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO VIEW YOUR PRESENTED INFORMATION? In other words, how YOU want to be viewed. As Jeffrey Glover indicated in his "Savvy Things" section, we must "Be Unique." However, being unique may involve a little soul searching, and what makes up our self-concept is "all the ideas, thoughts, and information we have about ourselves..."*, both the good and the bad. However, most web pages are designed by analyzing our self-schema ("...what we believe to be true about ourselves."*) or by looking for possible selves ("Selves we would like to attain..."*). This is one of the reasons why having many screen names and RPG's -- role playing games -- are so popular.

Your web page will also be under scrutiny, not only by others by but by YOU. It is through these reflected appraisals ("Our view of how other people react to us"*) that successful web design is established. Most individuals wish to express their individuality -- but only so far. Our social comparison ("The process in which we compare our reactions, abilities, and attributes to those of others."*) defines the boundaries of what is acceptable to us and what is not on the Internet. This is apparent in viewing those many, many web designing sites, as most of them have similar advice/information.

Keep in mind that not only is your page a representation of you, but so too are your links!

(3) WHICH ON-LINE COMMUNITY OR COMMUNITIES DO YOU WANT TO HAVE LINKS TO? Whatever topic(s) you choose to join on the Internet also dictates the structure of your web page. For example, if you want to put up your resume as a web page, you must make sure that the links attached to it are professional. You DO NOT want a possible future employer to be looking at your resume which has links to your home page, which has links to your favorite rock band's site, which has links to the legalize marijuana home page, etc. The key to remember is that each link you make encompasses a community of others. As in "reality", you need to know who your neighbors are and what kind of area you will be living in. The same is true with virtual reality. Don't just add any link! Spend some time getting to know the site first.

Always remember that you are never alone. By simply putting up a web page you are already part of a very large community. Links simply allow you instant access to other on-line communities. "Home Pages have a motivating force determined by the reason for its existence. There are three broad categories of Home Pages which relate to their intent. For example, a Home Page may be the landing point for a Site that contains hundreds of Home Pages and even hundreds of sites attached together to form a cyberspace village or compound. The Page that leads to all other Pages thus has an introductory function. Some Pages are put up for artistic or expressive reasons while others fulfill a topical or indexical function presenting categories or sub-directories of organized information." (Per Dr. Leon James) With so many links available to directories and sub-directories, it becomes necessary to become involved in your links. Also, you should check your links frequently in the event that the site is no longer active, has changed it's format, etc.


What It's Like to Become a Web Designer:
Through Trial and Error


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If all else fails, you can always take comfort in the fact that I was once as lost as you. I started a class called On-line Communities, Psychology 409b, and I knew nothing about setting up a web page. I didn't think I would EVER be able to learn how to write HTML code, let alone design pages! I still think there is a LOT of things wrong with mine that need my attention. Spending many a night 'til 3:00 A.M. trying to figure out why my links wouldn't work, I would be stuck for hours on one stupid line of code which had one character missing!

I will not lie to you. It does take a lot of patience and energy (especially in the form of time) to create a web page. But once you see it up -- doing what you want it to do -- there is a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It becomes like a new hobby, and you will tend to want to redo or change certain things. Also, the more you learn about what you are capable of doing, the more you want to try out new ideas to make your web page work better for you (as well as look better). In taking this class, I have had to tutor many other students through this process as I learned it. This helped to reinforce the new knowledge I gained, and allowed me to learn how to overcome not only the problems I experienced, but those of others as well.

I have no regrets in taking Dr. James' Psychology 409b class. I did learn a lot, and I probably wouldn't have even attempted building my own web page if it wasn't for my enrollment. However, as part of his on-line generational community classroom, I still feel apart from the other members of my class rather than a member of a micro-community. It would have been better for Dr. James to have us create our own newsgroup related to OUR community, so that we could experience a more connected on-line experience. As the classroom is now, we are all going our separate ways rather than maintaining a group "unity" once the semester is over. I fear that most of us in Generation 5 will not stay in touch with each other OR our web pages, and so our on-line experience appears to lack longevity.

In closing, I recommend that you take a look at my Annotated Index to Web Design below. This will help you get in touch with more information about what's out there and how people are approaching it, which can be invaluable in helping you begin your own designs. I also will offer this piece of immortal advice from Rodney Dangerfield, "Go back, stay in school. It's safer there!" What I mean is learn as much as you can while you are in school 'cause you'll need it once you're out, and never, never stop learning.


Annotated Index to Web Design:
And Yet MORE Links!


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Here is a GREAT list of computer Zines (computer/Internet magazines) which certainly helped and entertained me. This is the MOST complete listing of Zines I've found anywhere:

Here are some pertinent topics regarding psychological aspects of the Internet:

Patrick Douglas Crispen teaches a course over the Internet via the University Of Alabama. Humorous & informative.

A large and informative site byArlene H. Rinaldi of Florida Atlantic University on netiquette and related topics.

Macmillan's HTML Workshop
Sucky to Savvy by Jeff Glover
The Web Design Group - An Excellent Site!
CanLink's Help Desk
HTML Goodies

For the latest legal update on the Internet, go to SSRN.com

Visit Diane Nahl. She has some terrific information regarding many areas of the web.


NAVIGATION TABLE
E-Mail Me! Dr. James' Page My Class Page My UNIX Page My 409a Page
Report 1

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* References taken from Social Psychology by Irwin A. Horowitz & Kenneth S. Bordens, Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View, CA, 1995