Writing for the Web

Creating: Consider Adding Special Effects to Your Pages

Interactivity is one of the most important differences between print and online documents. Unfortunately, many Web site designers use interactivity not because it will help them achieve their purpose and goals as writers or help them address their readers' needs and interests—but simply because they can.

Admittedly, it can be "cool" to have a sparkling star moving randomly across your pages—and it can be entertaining (to you if to no one else) to add a musical score to your site. Think twice, however, when the urge to embellish your pages strikes. If an effect will make your site more effective, use it. Otherwise, pass it by.

That said, I've added interactive effects to many of my sites, most often through Javascripts but occasionally through Cascading Style Sheets. In general, I've used Cascading Style Sheets to create understated effects such as changing the color of a link when a reader moves the mouse cursor over a link. I've also used Javascript to control the creation of new browser windows, to swap images in button bars when the mouse cursor moves over them, and to create form-based navigation menus. These effects enhance the usability of a site by providing feedback to the reader, by reducing the space needed to display navigation tools, and by providing additional control over my use of links.

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