Web Design Curriculum and Syllabus Based on Web Design Practice and Students' Prior Knowledge

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Introduction

This paper deals with the way we started our web design study group. The main objective is to explain the procedure we used to test the students' prior knowledge of web design. Secondly we would like to present the educational program in this field based on our research.

The World Wide Web is nowadays part of our lives. When trying to create functional and attractive sites, web designers meet with difficulties because web design is associated with many other modern disciplines. Besides an extensive knowledge of new web design technologies, the designer should be familiar with usability, accessibility, privacy, and security. We must not, however, forget the artistic aspect of web designing--students ought to study subject areas such as graphic design, form and style, and drawing and painting.

Our survey of curricula from several universities worldwide (see: Additional sources) has shown that web design is not usually found as a separate study group. It is present as one or more courses within other study groups in computer science or information technology departments. Furthermore, the majority of the reviewed courses regarding the Web are mainly based on studying web technologies, programs, and scripts, neglecting the issues mentioned above. Our study group for web design was founded at the Advanced Technical School, Novi Sad in 2004 with an appropriate undergraduate program involving the fundamental knowledge of the abovementioned areas.

The world tendency to do business and a variety of other activities on the Web increases the need for special web design study groups. So, undergraduate studies aiming to educate future web design professionals should be harmonized with modern expectations in order to provide students with knowledge and skills necessary to deal with the complete situation on the Web. Therefore, curriculua and syllabuses should be made according to the needs of the present-day web community and the prior knowledge of students. Since the WWW influences our views regarding the standards of beauty among other things, it is important to educate designers who will be able to contribute to the development of aesthetics in general.

Important Web Issues

Let us first discuss some of the previously mentioned important areas connected with web design.

Usability

As mentioned earlier, the number of people relying on the WWW in their work is rising. Naturally, visitors expect to find useful sites to do business as fast and as comfortably as possible; therefore, usability, which is defined as the visitor's ability to use the site appropriately, is very important. Unfortunately, there are numerous websites with mistakes against usability, since they are partly unusable for the average user. The most common mistakes against usability can be found in Nielsen (2003). A user investigation in 2004 ("Web usability--the main rules", 2004 ) shows that about 40% of users never come back to a website after their first unsuccessful attempt. The most common reasons for their disappointment with websites can also be found in this investigation.

According to Powell (2000), the main web design aspects are purpose, web content, visual elements, and technologies. The basic principle of good web design is a balance between these four aspects, and the designer-to-user correspondence. However, a lot of websites are created without a previously defined purpose. Usually the only motive for their creation is just a reaction to the competition's website. On the other hand, sites with no balance between their function and form can be found on the Web every day. The same source claims the main reasons for this problem are the web designer's inexperience, short deadlines, and the so-called ad-hoc design without adopting any web design models. We believe that these problems occur due to the fact that web design courses are mostly focused on technologies, programs and scripts, as mentioned before. …