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Web Site Planning and Wireframing: Part 7 of 12

Effective architectural design By Laurie Burruss

In Web Site Planning and Wireframing: Hands-On Training, Laurie Burruss, director of digital media at Pasadena City College, demonstrates the essentials of creating a web site with a polished, professional appearance and a compelling user experience. The goal of this hands-on course is to deconstruct a web site's home page in order to identify its structural elements and feature set. Using Acrobat Pro and the web developer's toolkit, Laurie shows how to capture a homepage and create, in another layer, its visual framework (wireframe).

Topics include:

  • Seeing, scanning, and reading a web page
  • Understanding naming conventions
  • Creating file structures
  • Understanding page hierarchy
  • Using Acrobat and Photoshop with wireframes
  • Building a professional wireframe from scratch
  • Identifying and using web standards in site design
  • Usability Testing

Effective architectural design

So we've looked at some of the visual features and structural elements. We've talked about how information being well designed and having a hierarchy is important. But what makes you want to stay at a well-designed homepage? It should be just like coming home.

For me designing a homepage is all about thinking 3D, not 2D. It actually is a house. So let's take this house metaphor a little bit further. If you walk into a traditional house and you are invited into the foyer or the entry hall, you have a general idea right off the bat, the kind of family who lives there.


As you're standing in the foyer if I said to you where are their social activities, you would say downstairs towards the front. If I said where are their messy activities, their family activities? You would say in the kitchen, in the den towards the back on the first floor. If I ask you about where are their private activities, their special activities, their personal activities? You would say upstairs in the bedrooms and you could probably even tell me whether it's two bedrooms or three bedrooms or four bedrooms or you might even be able to indicate to me where the bathrooms are, where the closets are.

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In other words, the minute you walk into a house you have a sense of the floor plan, a sense of the life that's lived there. A good homepage, a well-designed homepage translates into that same kind of experience. When people talk about their experiences on the Internet, they use verbs that indicate that they have been to places. I went to that site, I did this at that site, I saw this. I did that, I talked to. All of these verbs are not like the verbs that people use when they read a book or read a magazine or read a newspaper. They talk about they have been on a trek or a quest or they have explored.

So remember that they are using action verbs that challenge you as a designer to think of creating new spaces, new places, new experiences and ultimately new memories, because as we know memories make deep, deep channels in our brain and those are the things we carry with us. That's why branding is important. That's why a homepage is so important. It is the portal into your company's emotional heart in center.

But I would like to leave you with this. Ask yourself when you design a homepage, when I walk in the door, when I'm at this homepage, do I know where I am? Remember, you never get a second chance on the Internet. The typical amount of time spend on a homepage is 3 seconds. If 2 of those 3 seconds are spend in a download and 1 second of that experience is an unfavorable or discomforting or annoying experience, they won't be back.

So make it easy, make it feel like home, like they know who they are, who they are visiting and why they are there.

About is an award-winning provider of educational materials, including Hands-On Training instructional books, the Online Training Library, CD- and DVD-based video training, and events for creative designers, instructors, students, and hobbyists.

The Online Training Library and CD-ROM titles include such subjects as Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Office, digital photography, Web design, digital video, and many others.'s all-star team of trainers and teachers provides comprehensive and unbiased movie-based training to an international membership of tens of thousands of subscribers. Considering the speed at which technology evolves, the Online Training Library is a great solution for keeping your skills current. Library subscriptions begin as low as $25 a month, with no long-term commitment required.

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Laurie Burruss serves as the director of digital media at Pasadena City College, where she has also been design professor for the past 15 years. Laurie is a professional digital storyteller, and she has developed a rich curriculum in digital and new media, which includes Flash, ActionScripting, web design and development, motion graphics, digital video editing, 3D modeling and animation, and environmental graphics design. As director of the Digital Media Programs at PCC, she has established many partnerships and collaborations in interactive multimedia, with companies such as Warner Bros., Disney Imagineering, Industrial Light and Magic, and Apple. Laurie has served as project director for grants from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Labor, and more. Laurie received a BFA and an MFA in fine arts from the University of Southern California.
Related Keywords:website planning, wifeframing, web design, web developer, page hierarchy, acrobat, photoshop, web standards, usability testing

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