By Mike Miller
The phrase Web 2.0 keeps popping up lately. I have been asked what it is, a new technology, a new browser, a new faster connection, etc... The best I can tell people is that it's a coming around to taking the advice that's been out there for years. Make a site usable, fast loading and rewarding. You can make things look high-tech these days without making them heavy.
For a while there (when 'everyone' was a web developer) it was common to see a beautiful, graphically rich web site that literally loaded image-by-image, slice-by-slice until the whole screen was filled. No one seemed to take the time to break their designs up or to optimize speed over quality. Now that more people have faster internet bandwidth I have seen a small return to the graphically-heavy slice-and-dice web designs of the past. But if you are designing a new site, run like hell from any developer that is still working this way.
As a web designer and self-diagnosed obsessive compulsive, every site I design is structured at every step by the thought of 'how can I do this in HTML'? If I can use CSS styles instead of graphics, I will. I still do my design work in Adobe Photoshop, and show my clients bitmapped images for approvals, but I build my interfaces piece by piece when it is time to convert the design to HTML, languishing on the optimization of each minute graphic building block. When it's all done, my most educated clients are amazed..."Where are all the graphics?" (I put all graphics that are a part of the interface in a folder called images/interface.) It's amazing how you can fill up a page with a rich design using CSS styles and a few well-placed, well optimized graphics!
The bonus to all this is that the designs created in this way are very visible to the search engines, and are friendly to people using screen readers or other accessibility technology.
The days of fancy Flash-only landing pages are winding down too, as people come to the realization that search engines dead-end when they see them if there are no HTML links or keyword-rich text. Gotta get in those search engines, right?
Is this Web 2.0? Maybe, but perhaps Web 2.0 is just the public's 'acceptance' of what a few of us have been trying to say since Web 1.0!
-- Footnote --
My compliments to Rafe Needleman of CNET for his well written article on Web 2.0. You can read it here: http://www.cnet.com/4520-13601_1-6758543-1.html?tag=links%3bfeature