A Directed Reading Course, by Zach Tomaszewski

for LIS 699, Fall 2001, supervised by Dr. Rebecca Knuth

TITLE: Building Better Web Interfaces: JavaScript, DHTML, and Usability

PURPOSE:   As the world of information continues to move into the still-new realm of the World Wide Web, a modern informational professional must know the intricacies of good web site design. Though the basics of HTML-coding are well covered elsewhere, rarely are things such as interactivity, style, and usable site navigation adequately examined. This class serves to fill that void.



(Since most classes are 16 weeks in length, the following divisions have been given in terms of weeks to demonstrate how much relative time will be spent on them.)

3 weeks: Usability and site navigation.
Explore principles of good user-centered design, accessibility for the disabled, ADA/WAI guidelines. Breifly review site and system analysis and the principles of good information architecture. (Usability will be the primary focus throughout this class.)

2 weeks: Improving layout and separating it from content.
CSS, typography and nature of fonts, review of web style manuals and traditional writing guides.

6 weeks: JavaScript.
Learn the JavaScript programming language with an examination of common uses in creating interactive webpages. Review any current studies on common user opinion of interactive webpages. Explore how JavaScript and interactivity can improve usability.

3 weeks: Standards and compatibility.
Study the history of browser compatibility with W3C standards, in the past and plans for the future. Examination of DOM, XML, XHTML, WML, UML, and other developing markups and their necessity and functionality.

2 weeks: Users of the web.
Look at research on current Internet demographics -- average connection speeds, socio-economic breakdowns, geographical dispersion, dominant gender, average computer experience, etc. Briefly examine ways to identify and cater to specific groups (such as building separate pages for high vs. low bandwidth, for different browsers, or for different geographic regions). Discuss the wisdom of this in light of the principles of interoperability and standards.

PRODUCT: Each of these sections will require a short paper discussing the basic principles learned and evaluation of them. Depending on the section, an implementation project will be required to demonstrate application to real web site development. Brief discussion of the thought processes used and the choices made during implementation construction should also be included.

EVALUATION METHOD:   Grading will be based on the quality of the papers and the extent to which the implementations incorporate the principles learned.