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Web Graphic Design

Web GraphicWeb graphic design has the ability to frustrate and reward in equal measures. It is the art of communicating to an Internet audience through the style of image and text. It can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to beĀ : so why do so many people get it wrong?

Ever since the trend of complex web templates took off, developers have been striving to master the art of graphical interaction on websites. For every proud designer that ever made it, hundreds have failed to make the cut. At least, they would do, if there were an Internet law restricting the use of obscenely poor graphic design.

Immensely powerful graphical programs are available on the market. Applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Fireworks have revolutionized the way we look at design, and understandably so. The computer world has come a long way since the days of DOS based operating systems and 16 bit GUI.

So how does an aspiring web designer mould the perfect formula for his craft? Perhaps the first duty of call should be to address how to utilize BAD graphic design. Avoiding bad habits will save you a lot of time in the long run.

You need to have good graphics developing software to equip yourself for the strains of web design. It's thoroughly recommended that you invest in one or more of the popular brands; Adobe Photoshop CS2, Macromedia Fireworks or Jasc's PaintShop Pro.

Does it matter which one you choose? Yes and no. Photoshop is, and has been for a while, the leading software for any kind of graphics development. It's an incredibly powerful design tool and better yet, it comes complete with Adobe ImageReady which serves as a useful sister application. Indeed, the Adobe series has produced several notable applications for web designers. Illustrator and InDesign are both worth the investment as well.

Fireworks is catching up fast, but one suspects that the recent merging between Macromedia and Adobe will put a dent in Fireworks' chances of taking over as the lead provider.

PaintShop Pro serves up its own advantages, but unlike its rivals, it specifically focuses on vector and bitmap editing rather than the general field of web design.

Whichever program you end up with, be aware of the fact that good web graphics designers spend a painstaking amount of time honing their craft and exploring the advantages of their design tools.

Make sure you spend plenty of time experimenting with the various tools before you even consider plunging in to the murky depths of designing a web template or slicing a layout for coding.

It would be impossible to retrace every last designing technique practiced by professionals, but it's important that we touch on the issues that are faced. What are the challenges of designing for the web?

To set off on the right track, you absolutely must design with a mind for the browser capabilities and accessibility of your users. When you design images, or use Clip Art for a website, you have to consider the optimized loading times.

There's a general rule in graphic design that if an image is relatively photographic, with extremely detailed pixel patterns, it should be saved as a JPEG. This will increase the quality of your image, and preserve it well for the web.

However, if you're dealing with vector graphics, shapes and solid objects, you should be saving them in GIF format.

What difference does it make, you ask? An image is an image, right?

Traditionally, a GIF image is highly compressed and much smaller than a JPEG. This is exactly what a good graphic designer should be looking to implement wherever possible. Optimized download times are extremely important.

Clip Art and stock photo websites are widely available on the web and you should stock up on freebies as much as possible. Hey, it's there, so you might as well take advantage of it.

As technology progresses, web designers are becoming more and more ambitious with their interfaces and animation is cropping up all over the web. Macromedia Flash is a fantastically diverse tool for creating mini animated videos, and loading them directly on to a page. Of course, remember that not every user has the latest plug-in. For that reason, videos embedded in web pages are still somewhat of a rarity in the global sense.

While programs such as Flash, and to a lesser extent ImageReady, are certainly serving their purpose, they have several restrictions. Until all browsers are capable of handling the technology, they can only prosper as a solution to a niche market.

Designers have been getting around this stumbling block through other means however, with the client side handling of JavaScript proving a popular choice. Using JavaScript, a developer can produce rollover images and provide a dynamic design with CSS and basic HTML. It certainly isn't as hands-on as Flash or Animator, but most browsers support JavaScript these days and it's therefore a suitable alternative.

Aside from choosing a preferred technique and designing your template, you also have to consider the implications of different resolutions and screen sizes. It's a horrible fact of a web designer's life that not every user on the Internet has the same output on a screen. Some ancient browsers are still hovering on 640 x 400 resolutions, while others are taking up the entire office wall with incredible 1600 x 1200 outputs.

What does this mean for you and your design? It means that you have to choose a size for your web templates that isn't going to alienate a large percentage of your potential visitors.

The most popular resolution is 1024 x 780, and thus, you should be gearing your website towards those specifications. It's possible to design a website compatible to every resolution by using table widths and stretching graphics accordingly. Unfortunately, and more often than not, somebody has to miss out. And usually it's those 640 x 400 stragglers.

Over time, you'll discover that the greatest pain of a web designer isn't in finding the right fonts or getting the perfect color scheme. It's actually the bother of fitting it all together.

Creating web graphics and creating web templates are two entirely different crafts and you'll need a knowledgeable background of HTML and basic developing standards before you master the art. Don't let that stop you.

At the bottom of every great designer's rich portfolio of creations, you'll always find a scrappy heap of MS Paint bound garbage. Don't be put off by the idea of your first graphics designs being unusable. Graphical work is perhaps the finest example in the scope of web design where practice really does make perfect.

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