Preface to the second edition

AS IS THE CASE WITH MANY innovations, the Web has gone through a period of extremes. At its inception, the Web was all about information. Visual design was accidental at best. Web pages were clumsily assembled, and "sites" were accumulations of hyperlinked documents lacking structure or coherence. Designers then took over and crafted attractive, idiosyncratic, and often baffling containers for information. The Web became a better-looking place, but many users hit up against barriers of large graphics, complex layouts, and nonstandard coding. Every site was different, and each required users to relearn how to use the Web, because "real" designers could not be bound by standards or conventions. Instead, designers pushed the boundaries of HTML, using workarounds, kludges, and sleight of hand to design on the cutting edge.

Today, the field of Web design is seen much more as a craft than an art, where function takes precedence over form and content is king. Innovative designs using fancy navigational doodads are generally seen as an annoyance standing between the user and what he or she seeks. Large graphic eye-candy, no matter how pleasing, is simply wasted bandwidth. Like 1960s architecture, much of yesterday's Web design now makes users wince and wonder how it could ever have been fashionable. Instead, today's Web designers are also information architects and usability engineers, and a user-centered design approach is the key to a successful Web site. Instead of constantly requiring users to relearn the Web, sites are beginning to look more alike and to employ the same metaphors and conventions. The Web has now become an everyday thing whose design should not make users think.

The guidance we offer in Web Style Guide has always been grounded on the functional aspects of design. In this second edition we extend our focus on functionality with additional sections on Web site accessibility, Cascading Style Sheets, and flexible page design. We include additional sections on information architecture, site maintenance, and multimedia design. And we have added illustrations and updated our Web site examples to reflect current best practices.

In addition to all those who contributed to the first edition of Web Style Guide, and whom we acknowledge at the end of the first edition preface, we thank Jean Thomson Black, Laura Jones Dooley, Joyce Ippolito, Maureen Noonan, Nancy Ovedovitz, Deborah Patton, and Amy Steffen at Yale University Press for their hard and high-quality efforts in producing this second edition. We are particularly grateful to Lou Rosenfeld for supplying such a lively and cogent foreword.

I extend heartfelt thanks to my friends and colleagues at Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media and the School of Medicine's Web Design and Development unit: Carl Jaffe, Phillip Simon, Sean Jackson, Kimberly Pasko, Jim Soha, Janet Miller, Victor Velt, Crystal Gooding, Michael Flynt, Kathryn Latimer, Venkat Reddy, and Russell Shaddox. In particular, I'd like to thank Carl Jaffe for fifteen years of friendship, wise counsel, and practical advice, much of which now appears on these pages. I'd also like to acknowledge and thank my co-author and dear friend Sarah Horton for her friendship, for her partnership in this enterprise, and for convincing me that converting our Web Style Guide site into a book was a good idea.

I am especially grateful to the following individuals for their comments, suggestions, assistance, and counsel over the development of this book and companion Web site: Anne Altemus, Emmett Barkley, Richard Beebe, David Bolinsky, Stephen Cohen, Frank Gallo, Scott Hines, Peter Kindlmann, Howard Newstadt, John Paton, Noble Proctor, Stacy Ruwe, Virginia Simon, William Stewart, Lynna Stone-Infeld, Jan Taylor, Frans Wackers, and Cheryl Warfield.
— PL

I thank my excellent colleagues in Curricular Computing at Dartmouth College: Jeffrey Bohrer, Malcolm Brown, Barbara Knauff, Mark O'Neil, Susan Simon. I also thank the Dartmouth faculty whose sites we use as examples: Joan Campbell, Sheila Culbert, Eva Fodor, Karen Gocsik, Sally Hair, Julie Kalish, Allen Koop, Thomas Luxon, and Gerard Russo. Finally, I am grateful to Andrew Kirkpatrick at the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media ( for casting a knowledgable eye on the sections on Web site accessibility.
— SH