Making a Website Attractive and Functional

If budgeting limitations were not an issue, I would be a fan of a high-tech approach to digital exhibits, with lots of hyperlinks to supplemental materials and to documents that are internally searchable.

Returning to the planet earth, we know that budgeting is an issue and that the “costs” of digitization are not just measured in IT funding, but also in all the time and human resources that go into a digitization project.

Cohen and Rosenzweig look to designer Edward Tufte for his description of the balance between simple and more advanced approaches to web design: “For Tufte, the elegance and impact of design comes in the resolution of this tension. How do you get your points across without presenting a dizzying array of text and graphics? How can you maximize expression without cluttering a page? How can you juxtapose elements in a way that allows readers to draw their own conclusions rather than bludgeoning them with the obvious?”

So I like the idea of shooting for a middle position, which features a site that is not so simple as to be discounted as second-rate but also not so complex as to be confusing and overwhelming. That site would enhance accessibility both in terms of the types of documents that are accessible (e.g., the rare book that would otherwise only be available to the scholar who travels to the Beineke Library at Yale) and in terms of the number and type of people gaining access. It would be sophisticated enough to attract the person who would bypass a site if it didn’t have color and some frills.  And I’m not sold on the idea that small chunks of text necessarily are better than longer passages. With Cohen and Rosenzweig, I agree with  that “good writing produces willing readers, regardless of the medium.”

I think the California Women for Agrigucture site is a good example a site that meets the middle ground position of being usable and informative.

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