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Designing Your Site for Web 2.0


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Kim Roach photoHave you heard it? There's a buzz like never before on the Internet. Everyone is talking about Web 2.0. If you're like many people, you may think it's a marketing gimmick and quite an overused statement. If so, you would be at least partially right.

Fortunately, there's another side to the story. Underneath all of the chatter is a concept that is even more powerful than the hype that surrounds it.

The concept of Web 2.0 started as a conference brainstorming session between O'Reilly and MediaLive International. During their discussion, they analyzed the companies that had survived the dot-com collapse. Interestingly enough, many of these companies had quite a few things in common. Was there a connection? Was the dot-com crash a turning point for the web? O'Reilly and MediaLive believed so. And therefore, Web 2.0 was born.

So, what is it?

Wikipedia defines Web 2.0 as:

"The term Web 2.0 refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation, Web 2.0 gives users an experience closer to desktop applications than the traditional static Web pages. Web 2.0 applications often use a combination of techniques devised in the late 1990s, including public web service APIs (dating from 1998), Ajax (1998), and web syndication (1997). They often allow for mass publishing (web-based social software). The concept may include blogs and wikis."

There is no official standard for what makes something "Web 2.0", but there are certainly a few common attributes that often describe this new culture of transformation.

You can see many of these concepts in sites like Flickr, del.icious, Wikipedia, Amazon reviews, and the eBay reputation system.

Web 2.0 is built on a system of collective knowledge. It provides a social fabric for the Web, empowering the individual and giving them an outlet for their voice to be heard.

However, we have only seen a small glimpse of the effects of these new transitions. Del.icio.us and Digg are just the beginning of what will soon become a much more interactive Web.

Each day there are a variety of new online applications being released: online spreadsheets, online word processing, to-do lists, reminder services, and personal start pages.

In addition, many of the changes that are evident in the world of Web 2.0 can be seen through common design practices. Old-school HTML was full of boxes and square tables. Today's web designers are rapidly moving away from boxy designs to flexible curves. When designing for today's Internet, it's all about rounded designs, nice big text, gradients, glassy effects, and bright colors.

Rounded Corners:

Let's face it. The days of good 'ol tables and square boxes are good and gone. The Web 2.0 era has ushered in the pleasing sight of rounded corners.

Unfortunately, many web masters have spent unending hours trying to obtain perfectly rounded corners. Their pain and suffering has led to a number of tutorials that will help us bypass the grief.

Below are some links to tutorials that will get you started creating your very own rounded corners:

http://www.webcredible.co.uk/
http://www.alistapart.com/
http://www.web-20-workgroup1-swicki.eurekster.com/

Nice Big Text:

Have you ever been to a web site where you could barely read the text? Well, join the club. Fortunately, times have taken a turn for the better. With Web 2.0, oversized fonts have come into style. You can start using plenty of oversized text to make important messages stand out. Of course, you don't want all of the text on your web site to be supersized, but make sure that the most important text on the page is bigger than normal text.

You can see some examples at:

http://www.corkd.com/
http://www.blurb.com

Gradients:

Gradients are another popular design element of Web 2.0. This is especially true of backgrounds. A common background used today has a gradient at the top, fading down to some other color that continues throughout the background for the rest of the page.

For a complete tutorial on how to create this type of effect, go to http://www.photoshoplab.com/web20-design-kit.html.

Colors:

Web 2.0 sites are strongly defined by their colors. They nearly always use bright and cheery colors - lots of blue, orange, and lime green.

They also often include large, colorful icons, sometimes with reflections and drop shadows. To see some samples of how web sites are effectively using bright colors, check out:

http://www.9rules.com/
http://www.iconbuffet.com/
http://www.linkedin.com/

Other common design characteristics include the use of tabs, reflections, glassy effects, large buttons, and big text boxes for submission forms.

Sites that are embracing Web 2.0 can also often be identified by their tag clouds. If you have traveled the web much in the last 6 months, then you have surely seen tag clouds. They are used prominently on del.icio.us, Technorati, and Flickr. A tag cloud is basically a visual depiction of the content on a website. Often times, more popular tags are shown in a larger font.

Why not add a tag cloud to your own site? Not only do they look cool, but they also provide your visitor with a search tool that helps them to find your content quickly and easily.

You can create your own tag cloud with a very simple service called Eurekster Swicki (http://swicki.eurekster.com/). This is a community-based search engine that creates free tag clouds for web sites.

Although we have discussed many of the design elements associated with Web 2.0, this change is much more than just an aesthetic transition. Web 2.0 is essentially about a transition in the way we experience the Internet. The new Ajax programming base allows web masters to create an architecture of participation for their users. Web 2.0 refers to the ongoing transition to full participation on the Web.

Your web site can be so much more than an information resource. Your web presence is a place. With the proper programming skills, you can create a virtual world complete with an online shopping mall that compares prices from a variety of merchants, looks for potential coupons, and displays Amazon reviews.

In addition, traditional desktop applications are rapidly becoming available online as a service. Why not offer your visitors the ability to create their own to-do lists, online note pads, reminder services, and personal start pages?

Create an experience, not just a site.


Kim Roach is a staff writer and editor for the SiteProNews and SEO-News newsletters. You can contact Kim at: kim@seo-news.com










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