Reading the World Wide Web

What's New When Reading the Web

The multimedia nature and computer interface of the Web enables it to offer the reader more assistance in finding the information they need than print documents can. Knowledge of the features presented here will help you locate information quickly within a site and remeber where you are.

URL's—Web addresses

URL's— Universal Resource Locators— are Web addresses. Every Web page has its own URL. You're probably familiar with URL's, they look like this: You can find the URL of a page in the address bar of your browser.

Address Bar

If you want to remeber the exact location of a page be sure to record the entire URL.

The URL can reveal quite a bit of useful information about the Web site, information you need to determine how well the site meets your needs:

Site Maps

Site maps are rather self explanatory, nevertheless a helpful feature of many Web sites that you may not be aware of. A site map is a graphical representation of the site. It will tell you where particular sections ar pages are found within the site.

Click on the "site map" button on the bottom of this page to view the site map of the Writing Center. The "previous" button on the top left hand corner of the site map will bring you back here.


Many large Web sites will contain search functions. You are probably familiar with search engines such as Yahoo! or Google. A search engine within a site does just what one of the larger search engines does only the search is limited to inside the site.

Search functions can be very helpful if you are looking for a specific piece of information within a large site.


Frames break up the document into multiple areas. This site is displayed using frames: this window appears in the right frame, the overview in the left frame, and the menu in the bottom frame. Notice that the menu bar never changes as you move through the site—this is possible because of frames.

When reading documents displayed in frames try to figure out the pattern that the information is displayed in. More often than not there will be a menu bar or other functional area that stays with you as you move through the site, they are helpful in navigating the site and in avoiding getting lost.

Functional Areas

Functional areas are a part of the screen that serves a particular use. Functional areas may include menus, forms, toolbars, etc. Functional areas are helpful places to look when you are lost. Well designed functional areas will be consistent throughout the site.

Many times you will find key information pertaining to a site in areas you would consider a header or footer in a print document. Similarly in Web pages you might find key information in a side bar. Look to the top and bottom of the page or the top and bottom of your screen and along both sides for menu items, important links and important information about the site.

Menu bars are a collection of buttons that usually contain key links within the site. For example the menu bar on the bottom of this page contains buttons that link to the homepage, the sitemap, the index, help, etc.

You're likely familiar with tool bars in the software that you use—a group of buttons that each allow you to preform a function. Though less common in Web pages, you may still encounter them and if they are present they may be helpful in using the site.

Everyone has filled out forms, but forms on the Web allow a sort of interaction that was not possible with print. Web forms are generally processed immediately. you may have to fill out forms to make requests or subscirbe to a site or to post a message. If you encounter a form make sure you are aware of the results before you submit your information and do not give out important information about yourself casually.

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