The very first consideration of a web author is site content. The second consideration of a web author is page content. The third web authoring consideration is the relationship between site content and page content. The point is that content is the foundation and the frame upon which a web site is built.
"Hypertext and the web allow historians to build a web of context, which provides the social, political, and cultural background of the topic being studied," as noted by David Libby in "Context and Hypertext." The web of context provides background material for the site. Because hypertext allows for multiple paths of inquiry, concurrent events or persons need not be shuffled aside in favor of a more simple passage of time. However, as Libby notes, "the author has to ensure that time is not lost in space. Chronology still matters."1
While a traditional research paper is more linear, a web site resembles a hierarchy of thought. The web allows for multiple connections and transitions. As discussed in "Context and Hypertext," "Hypertext offers both the author and the reader opportunities to diverge from a single path of inquiry and free-associate. Rather than a linear argument, the ideal result is a web of interpretation. The web of interpretation shepherds the browser into the site through its link structure but provides numerous options at every step. Thus pages do not follow one another in sequential fashion, they are all intertwined in a web." An effective web of interpretation fuses together, or links, the various information chunks required for web site design.2
Use multimedia to give more detailed information. Writing about fire in a person's eyes is a bit less exact than actually seeing a picture accentuating that person's fiery eyes. An exclamation point does not communicate a person's tone quite as much as that person's own shouting voice! Combine images and text to inform the viewer more broadly. When using an image or sound or video, be sure to differentiate between primary and secondary sources. For example, on the "Portrait of a People" Tecumseh page, look at the picture of the Indian chief in the introduction.3 Compare the portrait to the sketch of Tecumseh on the Legends and Myths page. The images are slightly different. Which is the primary source? (For the answer, click here).
Design and write content to suit the site's audience. Persons viewing the web pages may range from amateur to professional in their relationship to the material presented. Amateurs will, of course, know less about the information and therefore will require a broader web of context or in other words more details, definitions, and/or descriptions. However, amateurs will also be more interested in summary information requiring the site to contain smaller chunks of information as opposed to long involved essays. Regardless of whether an amateur or a professional is the intended viewer, the information presented on the site should be as meaningful and brief as possible.