As with navigation design, decisions regarding the visual
design of a web-based text—including the manipulation of elements
such as typography and color—depend on the goals of the text and
the perceived needs of the reader. In other words, an effective visual
design can support and enhance the meaning of the text; visual elements
can be used rhetorically to gain the adherence of readers. Karen Chauss
argued in “Reader
as User: Applying Interface Design Techniques to the Web,” (incidentally, Kairos’s first
Best Webtext award recipient), that the unique interface abilities afforded
by the online medium require responsible use: “When writing for electronic
media, writers can incorporate an array of graphic elements with greater
ease than for print media. Lack of experience, coupled with ease of inclusion,
can make for some wildly designed sites which distract rather than support
the user.” Furthermore, as Pullman (2006) acknowledged,
the new responsibilities for web authors necessitate judgment that may not
be adequately cultivated: “Twenty
years ago page layout and text design were the purview of graphic artists
and printers; specialists with specialized knowledge.” Visual design,
or “visual rhetoric” as it is referred to within the relevant
literature, offers a broad range of information regarding the effective manipulation
of typography, color, and layout.
One of the significant aspects of typography that is discussed in several
rhetorics of online writing is the use of various elements to display text
in visually screen-friendly ways. For example, Nielson (1997) and Troffer
(2000) suggested that Web authors incorporate bulleted points, lists, highlighted
or specially treated subheadings/headings, and block text to draw attention
to important information. Typical print-based scholarly prose is textually
dense and less likely to incorporate this type of visually designed presentations
Additionally, given that a majority of print journals’ typographic
styles include black font on a white background, color becomes an important
factor in identifying a scholarly “look” and begs the question:
Can a text designed with red font on a yellow background, for example appear
scholarly? Indeed, is it sufficiently reader-friendly? Chauss (1996), for
example, discussed the rhetorical use of color: “When used effectively,
color can draw the user's attention to important information, show relationships
between ideas or objects, and enhance the comprehension, retention, and appeal
of the information provided.” One noteworthy convention that assists
readers in retention and navigation involves the use of a consistent color
to indicate hyperlinks as well as a different color to indicate when a link
has been visited or activated. This “feedback” presented through
a simple and consistent change in color helps readers identify where they
have been and what avenues are still open within the web-based text. The
visual design of color in this sense is crucial to effective navigation.
Question 10 in Category B of the assessment tool is designed to evaluate
the extent to which the webtext incorporates an effective visual design according
to the standards outlines above.
Question 10: Visual design
a) Typographic style
- The webtext incorporates typographic screen-reading strategies through
a majority of nodes (e.g., bulleted points, pull-outs, bold/highlighted
text, or other graphic presentations of text).
- The webtext does not incorporate typographic screen-reading strategies; it mainly follows familiar, print-based typographical conventions (e.g., indented paragraphs, plain text, etc.).
b) Background and font color
- The webtext is designed with a dark font (e.g., black text) on
a light background (e.g., white background).
- The webtext is designed with non-conventional font and background colors that may or may not change within each node.
c) Link feedback
- The link color shows feedback by changing consistently with link activation.
- The link color does not show feedback.