Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Web Design & Development > Usability

  • Print
  • + Share This
From the author of

Web Documents and File Structure

While people have been writing HTML code by hand for years, the trend is increasingly toward using WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") editors that write the HTML for you, such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Adobe GoLive. Unlike XPress, these programs make it easy to add JavaScript and advanced features of HTML. If you plan to do extensive web development and site management, you might want to use one of these programs in conjunction with QuarkXPress. For example, you would design the page in XPress, add the text and graphics, export as HTML, and then modify and manage the page in Dreamweaver.

So what’s the advantage of using QuarkXPress? First, you can design your web page using the familiar Text Box and Picture Box tools, and moving the boxes around to your liking. You can even preview the page in a browser before exporting to make sure that your design displays properly. Second, you can easily convert existing XPress content to a web document.

Setting Up Folders

Before you begin building your site, you need to develop an outline of the site. The outline is similar to a storyboard for a multimedia project or a movie, giving you an idea of the scope of the project and a start for setting up the file structure you need for the site. At a minimum, each site should have a single folder containing your HTML files and images. Depending on the complexity of your site, you may also have subfolders to help you organize the files (see Figure 3). Don’t put your QuarkXPress documents inside the same folder as the HTML files—it makes them more difficult to manage later.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Site folder containing HTML pages and folders.

It’s a good practice to keep all your graphics in one or more folders within your site. For example, within your site folder you would create a subfolder with a name such as images. You might also want to create separate folders for different areas within the site. For example, you might have a product section, or a series of press releases. Creating separate folders for each of these areas makes it easier to manage the files. Once you create a web site, the number of pages within that site seems to grow exponentially over time, so organizing your site before you begin building your pages makes file maintenance much easier. When you complete all the pages, you transfer the site folder to the web server, and then you’re ready to go!

Creating Web Pages

As I said earlier, web layouts are totally different from regular print files. To create a new web document, choose File > New > Project or press Command-N (Windows: Ctrl-N). Then choose Web from the Layout Type pop-up menu. If you already have a project open, you can add a web layout by selecting Layout > New and then choosing Web from the Layout Type pop-up menu. The New Project and New Layout dialog boxes let you define the basic parameters of your web page (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4 Set up your new web layout in the dialog box. You can always change these settings later if you want to change your page design.

Let’s take a look at the web layout settings.

Because of the differences between web and print layouts, you need to pay special attention to what happens to your text boxes. Print layouts can contain more text styling options than HTML documents—for example, drop caps, tracking, and kerning. To solve this problem, XPress turns on the option "Convert to Graphic on Export" in all text boxes when you change a print layout into a web layout. This conversion ensures that the resulting web page resembles your print page as closely as possible, but it also means the entire page is a series of graphics. This may or may not be what you want. Graphics take longer than text to download, so people with slow connections may have to wait to see your pages. If you don’t want your text to be converted to a graphic, you’ll need to turn off this option later, in the Modify dialog box for each of the text boxes.

Of course, some features (particularly those that are marked with an asterisk in the Edit Style Sheet dialog box) simply have no equivalent in HTML. For example, tabs are not supported in HTML. Any tabs you have in your document are converted to spaces.

Dealing with Page Width

In the print world, you can create documents as small as a postcard, as large as a poster, four feet square, and so on. Your web pages also can be any size, but realistically you’re limited to the width of the computer monitor that displays the page. Common screen sizes include 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768, and 1600×1200 pixels. People don’t usually mind scrolling up and down, but few people like scrolling to the left and right, so your pages need to fit the width of their screen. Your best bet is to select a size that appeals aesthetically and contributes to onscreen readability. I usually use 800 pixels as the starting point for the page width, though sometimes I go for the lowest common denominator, 600 pixels.

The Variable Width Page feature enables your page to expand or contract as the browser window changes. When you use Variable Width Page, your web page’s width is based on a percentage of the width of the browser window—usually between 90% and 100%. This option may sound appealing, but I find that it usually just causes trouble. XPress just doesn’t have enough tools for managing how images and other page elements should flow when the browser window changes. If you’re laying out web pages in XPress, I recommend leaving Page Width set to an absolute value.

Page Colors

You can control the background color of the page, the color of the text, and the color of the links on the page. The default colors are based on standard browser defaults—a white page with black text, blue text hyperlinks, and so on. You can override any of these colors by using the pop-up menus. There are the normal XPress colors, plus 10 common web colors in the list (see Figure 5).

If you don’t like these colors, you can choose New from the list to choose any color you want from the standard XPress Edit Color dialog box. Any color you create using this method shows up in your document’s Colors palette, so you can use it there, too.

Figure 5

Figure 5 Web-safe color pop-up menu.

Web-Safe Colors in XPress

In the "bad old days," most people had 8-bit color monitors that could display only 256 colors at any one time, and colors would often be dithered (which looked kind of mottled and ugly). In order to counteract this problem, people tried to choose from a palette of 216 "web safe" colors, which wouldn’t dither onscreen. Today, every computer is sold with a 24-bit color card, few colors are ever dithered onscreen, and many designers simply choose whatever RGB color they want. However, if you really care about using web-safe colors, XPress can give them to you.

When you have a web document open, XPress automatically displays a bunch of web colors in the Colors palette, such as Web Navy and Web Maroon. However, these aren’t necessarily web-safe colors. If you want to add a web-safe color to your document, you can select Web Safe Colors from the Model pop-up menu in the Edit Color dialog box. Or just use my favorite method:

  1. Pick any RGB color in the Edit Color dialog box.
  2. Change the percentage values in each of the Red, Green, and Blue fields to the nearest 20% mark—0, 20, 40, 60, 80, or 100 percent. For instance, if the Red field reads 24 percent, change it to 20 percent. If the Blue field reads 71 percent, change it to 80 percent.
  3. Save the color. (You might include the words "web safe" in the color’s name to remind you.)

That’s all there is to it.

Background Images

A background image is generally a small graphic that "tiles" behind the contents of your page, being repeated to the width and height of the browser window. To add a background image, turn on the Background Image checkbox, and then use the Select or Browse button to direct XPress to the desired image on the hard disk.

By default, the Repeat pop-up menu is set to None, which means that the image will not be repeated (tiled). This makes sense when you want a single large image behind your web page, but that’s pretty rare. Instead, select Tile from the Repeat pop-up menu to repeat the image on the page horizontally and vertically (like the tiles on a bathroom floor). Choose Horizontal to repeat the image across only the top of the page, or choose Vertical to repeat the image down the left side of the page.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account