Net imaging takes a much finer line: Web Design

Graphics on web sites are poor due to some of the system's basic design concepts

IF YOU have ever seen a multimedia program running on a CD-Rom, one with an abundance of large, colourful graphics that fit perfectly, you may wonder why the Web can't look like this.

Well, there is the obvious problem of bandwidth, so it takes too long to download all of this glorious content, but there are other reasons that have to do with the fundamental concepts upon which the Web was originally conceived. All it was originally intended to do was to be a quick and easy way for scientists to exchange articles with other scientists. Then someone had the bright idea of adding graphics.

The first graphic format to be introduced to the Web was the relatively obscure Graphic Interchange Format, otherwise known as GIF. I have a pre- Web Photoshop book, circa 1992, which lists different graphic file formats. All it says about GIF is that it was created by CompuServe and is most often used to exchange porno pictures. The more things change... But the original creators of the Web used this format because it recorded complex images as relatively small computer files.

Soon after that, the JPEG format was added as a better way to transfer photographs on the Web. As a result of this early adoption, these two file formats have been the way we have created Web pages ever since. In actuality, both GIF and JPEG are just different ways to do the same thing: they record how a graphic looks by splitting the image into a grid of tiny points and then record the colour of each point. On the computer screen this is called a bit map, where each dot, or bit, is mapped out and its colour and position recorded. Both GIF and JPEG use this bit map method to record an image, differing mostly in the way they compress this information to reduce the file size.

Despite the fact that these formats have served us well, there are several problems:

Large File Sizes - These files are generally quite large since every pixel has to be recorded separately. Even when compressed, they can take seconds, or even minutes, to download and on the Internet that means using less graphic content if you want to keep people's attention.

Unalterable - Once created, these images are difficult to change in an image-editing program and impossible to change online. You can stretch and distort images in the Web browser using the WIDTH and HEIGHT attributes, but if you actually wanted to change the size of the graphic , forget it. Once displayed in a Web page, that's it.

Static - GIFs and JPEGs can't move on the screen. You can create animations using the GIF format, but those are about as sophisticated as a children's flip animation book and usually create huge computer files leading to long downloads.

So what is the solution? Over the past few years there have been a few attempts to add new graphic file formats to the Web, mostly through the use of plug-ins. None of these have really caught on because they rarely provided significant improvements.

However, just a few weeks ago Macromedia (http://www.macromedia. com) proposed that its Flash graphic format be adapted as a standard. Flash records graphics as vectors rather than bitmaps. To draw a line on the screen, a vector graphic tells the computer where the line should start and stop and how thick the line should be, whereas a bit map would have to record each and every dot. Vector graphics can fit a lot of information about a graphic into a small file. Even better, you can resize these graphics at a whim.

The drawbacks? Currently, Flash graphics require the use of a plug-in if you want to use them on a browser. However, Netscape recently announced that its browsers will come with this pre-installed, and Microsoft can't be far behind.

Next week we'll explore the Flash format and vector graphics in greater detail.

E-mail questions or comments to Jason Cranford Teague at indywebdesign@mindspring.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory