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Presentation Layer in Website Design
As we all know, there are always two sides to every website design. The visual side that all users see with all the graphic elements, buttons, images and the back side, which is the code that is responsible for the functionality of the website. How do you achieve balance?
The enabling side does not contain only one type of code, but includes several. First of all is the HTML code, which creates a framework in which to embed CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) or programming languages such as PHP. In other words, HTML is used to structure the content on the page, while CSS allows you to handle your website content and its style separately and programming languages communicate instructions to the computer.
The HTML itself does not support effects such as drop-down menus or carousels. There is a code that is expressively dedicated to the user interface while another code is used to process the data and connect to the database. The “presentation layer” refers to the graphical interface as well as the code that powers it, including the code that controls interactive elements such as drop-down menus.
The presentation code includes:
- HTML and HTML 5
Usually all those languages are expertly woven together to create a visually appealing and highly functional website design.
1. Creation of multimedia interface
Animated and immersive design is achieved through the use of Adobe Flash or a combination of HTML, CSS and other mixed scripting languages.
For many years Adobe Flash was in charge, but it started to change. Today, with the development of HTML 5 and CSS, we are able to replicate more and more interactive and animation effects.
HTML 5, the most recent edition of HTML took a big step forward in terms of presentation layer design capabilities. It provides an improved toolkit of elements and properties and recognizes the way designers work with and use particular elements. For example, it allows designers to define a navigation group with the new “nav” element instead of the previously used “div” element. HTML5’s animation and interaction design support features have also improved dramatically, and the fact that HTML5 is supported in mobile browsers such as Apple’s Safari has opened up the possibilities of web design.
A few words about Adobe Flash
Flash is an animation and interactive technology that allows you to create a highly immersive interface. As for the implementation of the Flash element in the design of the website, the process is quite simple. The component developed in Adobe Flash is exported as a self-contained .swf file and exactly the same way as an image, the .swf file is embedded in an HTML page. The .swf file can be either a small part of the page or it can literally be the entire interface. It should be noted that users must have Flash player installed in their browser to view a page with a .swf component.
Despite the ability to create an impressive user experience with Flash it has some disadvantages. The most significant is the fact that the Apple mobile platform simply does not support Flash files. Therefore, the website created in Flash must offer an alternative version of the site for mobile (Apple) viewers (of course, only if the market is important enough for them). The invitation for the user to download the latest version of the Flash player on the iPhone is an irrelevant button, since even if he downloaded Flash the site would not be accessible.
HTML5 – Flash Alternative
As mentioned before, the combination of HTML 5, CSS and jQuery code now makes it possible to reproduce animated websites that were only possible in Flash. Using the “canvas” element is now much easier than ever to design a rich and animated user interface. Most modern desktop and mobile browsers support the HTML5 standard which allows you to create a design that works on a multitude of platforms.
Examples of jQuery effects:
- Expanding and collapsing according to Windows
- Carousel image rotation
- Zoom image on rollover etc.
1.2 Advanced CSS graphic effects
In the past, to create a graphic element, a button for example, we used to rely on bitmap graphics like jpeg or gif. Not only do they increase the loading time of the web page, but they also have to be created by designers familiar with software such as Photoshop, and then have to be changed manually every time you want to change the look of the site.
Today, CSS offers increasing levels of stylistic control over the appearance of elements. It is now possible to add gradations, rounded corners, reflections and soft drop shadows to text and elements only through code.
There are a few useful CSS graphic style controls that we can implement to avoid using bitmap graphics in user interface construction.
The benefits of using CSS for our user interface include:
- Faster download times – the CSS code is written only once, and can be applied as a style to any graphic or text element;
- Scalable design – CSS code allows you to apply scalable attributes to fonts and elements;
- Easy maintenance – To change the size, color and visual effects of a button, text, or design element, we just change the values in the CSS code, and the change will be applied to all the elements assigned to the style particular;
- Accessibility – in CSS we use actual text for our buttons and interface elements, and these are marked up and identified in a way that screen readers can digest and translate for users who rely on such devices.
1.3 Responsive design
The most recent trend in website design is “responsive design”. It is an approach aimed at creating websites in a way that provides an optimal viewing experience, easy to read and navigate on a wide range of devices. When the user changes the size of their browser window, the web page immediately updates to display optimally in the “viewport” size. Viewport is a new term that designers use to refer not only to different desktop browser sizes, but also to mobile devices that all have different fixed screen sizes.
Responsive design is possible thanks to the “media queries part of the CSS3 specification”. It recognizes the size of the browser and tells the page to load the appropriate style sheet, for example ‘widescreen.css’ or ‘mobilescreen.css’. It is possible because different style sheets contain different layout systems, font sizes and image optimization settings.
Last but not least is getting creative ideas for the user interface. There are many inspirations online. It would be advisable to analyze good design practices, break them down to the essentials, and see how some of them can be adapted for application in our field.
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