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Web icons in your web oriented application
Don't you just hate a webpage full of text? So much stuff on it and you can never find the link to the next page. How about a webpage full of images? It takes forever to download and most of the times it doesn't fit in the browser's window, you just have to scroll on, and on, and on... If you have some Internet browsing experience, you'll probably exit these pages as soon as you see their bad looks. For most users it doesn't matter if the website offers a lot of information if what they're looking at is hurting their eyes.
So the best way to go is to avoid all these mistakes and try to balance the amount of useful content with the page looks. When it comes to appearance, websites will really improve their look from adding graphics, especially icons. If you're not a graphics person, you should really check out other similar web applications to see what graphics they are using. Different applications using different amount of graphics. For example, a website selling web templates should use a lot of images, especially icons.
The thing is that adding icons is that it's a very easy and cheap process, while the benefits are huge. Furthermore, an icon is a lot easier to remember than some text. Icons serve as "visual mnemonics", so, for example, if you put a disk icon near a "download" link, most users will look for the disk icon when they want to download something, because this is a lot easier to see than the old and boring download link. This is why you should always assign icons to the important parts of your user interface (buttons, headers, etc.) Aside from the fact that it makes these portions of the interface more visible to the user, they will greatly improve the general look of the application.
You should always choose the application's graphics carefully. Icons must always be adapted to your web application and what people use if for. So you really shouldn't use the same icons for two different websites, let's say a music-shopping website and a discussion board. Also, the icons' colors must be similar to the rest of the website, so it will integrate a lot better. Although most icons you see are nice and shiny, there are times when you want more "serious" icons. If you browse the stock icons and it seems like there is nothing you can use, you can always get some professional, custom-designed icons. Because, as you read earlier, icons are visual mnemonics, users will remember most of the times the icons from other web applications, so it would be a good idea to use custom-designed icons, as it is really important to have a unique look to your web application.
The size of the icon is really important. A smaller icon will probably not matter a lot, while a big icon will sometimes take too much space. There is really no general rule here, but if you have small text you will probably need to put a small icon next to it. The bottom line is that using icons will improve the general look of your web application. Small icons (16 x 16 pixels) are most of the times perfect for menus and similar smaller user interface components, while medium icons (32 x 32 pixels or 64 x 64 pixels) are great for when you want to focus the user's attention to certain part of the application. So remember, the bigger the icon, the higher the visibility of the object you want to emphasize. A big "Live Support" icon in the top-right corner of the interface will have maximum effect on visitors, but try not to use big icons all over the user-interface of your web application, because they take a lot of space.
There is also the issue about technical support. As discussed earlier, it is easier to spot a certain link if there is an icon besides it. If you have too much text and no icons in your web application it might be difficult for users to find access to a certain feature of the application. Placing in some icons will help you avoid in most cases such embarrassing questions like "how do I do this and that?" from your users. As it is embarrassing, it's also frustrating to answer them everytime. By using icons in your web application, technical support will be reduced considerably in most of the cases.
Web applications have improved considerably over the past years. If in the past developers focused mostly on providing a lot of features for the users, today's web applications try to be as user-friendly as possible. A well-planed user interface will help people better enjoy their browsing experience, and will also attract more visitors. As discussed earlier, icons are the fastest and easiest type of graphics that can be implemented in such an application. You can choose to either use stock icons or, better yet, get some custom icons, designed especially for your needs. This is the case for most of today's professional web applications, which all have a unique appearance, even though there may be a lot of similarities with other applications in the same field. At the end of the day, if all these applications do more or less the same things, people will look after the one that has the better looks and is more user friendly than the other ones - as a matter of fact, this was Microsoft's secret all these years in the battle of its main product, Windows, versus the open-source competitor, Linux. But today Microsoft is losing ground as its competitors have also implemented friendly user interfaces, making it easier for the average person to use the applications
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 (20:53:08) (2666 reads)
Getting Started with an Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
Many people learn to program using a simple text editor, but eventually most
end up using an integrated development environment (IDE) for building
applications. An IDE is a set of tools that aids application development. Most
IDEs have tools that allow you to:
- Write and edit source code
- See errors as you type
- See highlighted code syntax
- Automate repetitive tasks
- Compile code
- Browse class structures
- View JavaDocs
- Use drag-and-drop utilities for easy building of features, such as
graphic objects or creating database connections
In addition, some IDEs do the following:
- Provide templates for quick creation of JSP pages, servlets and other
- Provide code-completion as you type
- Automatically create classes, methods, and properties
- Integrate with source code repositories, such as CVS
- Integrate with web application servers, such as Apache Tomcat
- Integrate with build utilities, such as Apache Ant
- HTTP monitoring for debugging web applications
- Unified UI for debugging Java code
- Macros and abbreviations
- Refactor code
- Provide UML support
It's no wonder developers move to an IDE, but which IDE is right for you?
Which features do you need? Sun Microsystems supports three IDEs for the Java
platform: NetBeans, Sun Java Studio Creator, and Sun Java Studio Enterprise. The
following descriptions should help you decide which IDE is best for your
Original article continues
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Posted by jalex on Monday, August 15, 2005 (00:00:00) (2144 reads)