Now that you've seen the many ways you can add some character to your text-and use different tags to better communicate your ideas-it's time to jazz up your pages a little bit. Let's add some graphics!
First, though, you should know a couple of important things about placing graphics. Some of these considerations may seem a bit foreign to you, especially if you're a graphic designer or commercial artist. You have to think in a slightly different way about graphics for your HTML pages.
You may be comfortable using a program such as CorelDRAW! or Adobe Photoshop to create and manipulate graphics. You may already know the difference between a PICT file and a TIF file (and why that difference might be important). You may even know a lot about preparing graphics for professional printing or adding graphics to desktop publishing documents.
But if you've never done any design for the World Wide Web, there's also a good chance that you've never worried about one special graphics issue, even if you are a print design expert. How big is the graphics file that you created? Aside from using the correct graphics format, this issue is the single most important consideration in graphical Web design.
Why is the size of graphics files so important? Your Web users have to download your pages to view them, including all the graphics associated with the pages. Couple that fact with the Web speed issues discussed in Chapter 5, and the need for smaller graphics files becomes apparent.
The high-color, high-resolution graphics files that color printers and professional designers work with are generally measured in the number of megabytes of information required to create the graphics file. Each image can take up more space than is available on a floppy disk. Often, special tapes and cartridges are required to transfer these files from the graphics shop to the printer.
A good average size for a Web graphic, on the other hand, is between 10K and 30K-about one to three percent of the size of those high-color, high-resolution graphics. This could be tough.
Just to get a feel for how all this graphics stuff works, start your Web browser and Internet connection. Make sure that your browser has its preferences or options set so that it downloads graphics automatically.
If you're using Netscape Navigator, use the Netscape home page as your benchmark. If you're not using Netscape Navigator, point your Web browser to http://www.netscape.com/.
Now, as the page downloads, watch the status bar at the bottom of your browser's window. You should be able to watch as your browser downloads the page and the various graphics, and your browser may even tell you how large each graphics file is as you're downloading.
Next, select an individual graphics file on the page, and save it to your hard drive. In Windows 95, right-click a graphic and then choose to save the graphic as a file (in Navigator or Internet Explorer). On a Mac, hold down the mouse button and then choose to save the graphic when the pop-up menu appears (see . 9.1).
Figure 9.1 : Use Netscape Navigator to download Web graphics.
Finally, look at the file, using the Windows Explorer or Mac Finder. Check the file size of the graphic. Notice how small the file is, and remember how long downloading it took. You'll have to be aware of these considerations when you create your Web graphics.
The other thing that you need to concern yourself with is the file type that you're going to use for Web graphics. In general (at least currently), you can choose either of two file types: GIF and JPEG. GIF (CompuServe Graphics Interchange Format) is the more popular among Web browsers, but JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is gaining popularity and becoming more widely used.
Why have two standards? GIF and JPEG bring different advantages to the table. Let's take a look.
Any graphical browser supports the display of GIF format files inline, meaning that the browser doesn't require a special viewer for these files. GIFs are compressed graphics, but they tend to lose less image clarity than JPEGs. Images that have smaller color palettes (those that use 256 colors or fewer) often look better in GIF format. GIF is also the file format of choice for creating transparent graphics-graphics that make the Web page appear to be the actual background of the GIF graphic (see the section,"Creating Transparent GIFs," later in this chapter).
Although GIF files are compressed, they tend to be a bit larger
than JPEGs, but they decompress more quickly and tend to be drawn
more quickly than JPEGs (given the same file size). Another problem
with the GIF file format is the fact that it includes certain
copyrighted elements that make it less than an open standard for
Folks in the press took the ball and ran with it in late 1994 when they became aware of the fact that the GIF file format, created by CompuServe, used a compression scheme called LZH-a scheme patented by the Unisys corporation. At the time, CompuServe and UniSys had a licensing agreement under which CompuServe paid a royalty to Unisys but was granted the right to sublicense GIF and LZH technology to companies that made use of the graphics format in their programs. This publicity shifted some users and developers to unrestricted file formats such as JPEG, although GIF remains the most popular format for Web graphics.
Gaining on GIF in popularity is the JPEG format, which is widely used by Web designers. JPEG graphics can be viewed in most new graphical browsers without a special helper application. JPEG graphics have the advantage of being better for graphics that have more colors (up to 16.7 million, in most cases) than similar GIF files; in addition, the JPEG files are smaller (look ahead to fig. 9.2). Also, the compression scheme is in the public domain.
Figure 9.2 : The paint Shop Pro interface.
On the down side, JPEGs can be a little more lossy than
GIFs, meaning that the higher rate of compression results in slightly
lower image quality. JPEGs also take a little longer to decompress
than do GIF files. So although the smaller size of JPEG files
allows them to be transmitted over the Internet more quickly,
the amount of time that it takes to decompress those files sometimes
negates this advantage.
|The Future of Web Graphics Formats|
In the spring of 1996, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced a working paper standard for a new graphics format-the Portable Network Graphic (PNG) file type-as a possible replacement for the GIF and JPEG formats.
The PNG file format provides for high, lossless compression of graphics up through "true-color" depths, allowing transmission of very clean, crisp graphics over the Web. The specification uses public-domain compression schemes to avoid the sublicensing issues associated with GIF.
The format is designed to be highly machine-independent, so that different types of computers and operating systems can easily deal with the creation and display of PNG graphics. The PNG format allows for transparency effects (like the GIF format). These graphics often display more quickly in browsers that display graphics progressively (as the graphics are being downloaded).
Although the transition most likely will take some time, PNG is already making progress on the Web. You can expect many more browsers, graphics applications, and helpers to support the format in the future.
It's no secret that a lot of Web design has transitioned from manipulating text-based HTML documents to designing and integrating compelling graphics into Web pages. As the Web has become more commercial, its graphical content has become more professional. If you're not up to the task of creating professional graphics, don't worry too much; programs are available that will help you. Also, it's more important that graphics further the usefulness of the text. The graphics in and of themselves are not the point. The point is to make your Web pages more exciting and informative.
It is a fact, however, that Web sites are leaping forward daily into a more professional, more graphical presentation of Web-based information. Commercial artists and designers are continuing to find new niches on the Web. If you're a skilled computer artist, congratulations; this is where you'll put your skills to use. If you're not, that's OK, too. Any Web designer needs to be able to manipulate and edit graphics in a program such as Adobe Photoshop or CorelDRAW!, but you don't necessarily have to create those graphics, if that's not your forte.
As you get started with a program such as Photoshop or CorelDRAW!, keep in mind that the most important consideration in creating Web graphics is the file size. File size isn't generally the first consideration for creating print graphics; almost any print shop or prepress house will accept large storage cartridges or tapes that provide access to your huge full-color graphics. Not so on the Web. Your target is as small as possible-between 15K and 35K for larger (bigger on the screen) files.
You can come up with graphics to use on your Web pages in many ways. Eventually, any graphic that you use needs to be in a standard file format (for example, GIF or JPEG) and relatively small. But how you come up with the final graphic has a lot to do with the information that you're trying to communicate and with your skills as an artist. The following are some of the different ways you might come up with Web graphics:
Any graphics program, even Microsoft Paint, can create Web graphics, although you may need to use another program to change the graphic to an acceptable file format.
A popular program for creating Web graphics in Windows and Windows
95 is Paint Shop Pro, which has the added advantage of being try-before-you-buy
shareware. To download Paint Shop Pro, access the URL http://www.jasc.com/pspdl.html
with your Web browser, and find the hypermedia link for downloading
the program for your particular version of Windows.
As with any shareware program, you should register Paint Shop Pro (by sending in the requested fee) if you find it useful.
Paint Shop Pro arrives as a PKZip-compressed file archive, so
you also need a program on your hard drive to unzip it when the
download is complete. (WinZip is available from http://www.winzip.com/.)
Then install the program in Windows and start it. You should see
a window like the one shown in figure 9.2.
You can use Paint Shop Pro to create a simple graphic, such as a logo or title, for your Web pages. Using the flood-fill tool, for example, allows you to select a color and "pour" it into the window, creating a background color for the rest of your graphic.
Click the fill-tool icon and then choose a color from the color palette. To apply that color to your graphic, click in the graphic window.
Now select the text tool, choose another color from the palette, and click the graphic window. Type your text (your company name, for example) in the dialog box; then click OK. Now you should be able to drag the text around the window. When you have the text arranged correctly, click anywhere in the window to place the text permanently (see fig. 9.3).
Figure 9.3 : Creating a simple graphic.
Before you save this graphic, you should make it as physically small as possible so that it works well on your Web page. To cut the image down a bit, select Paint Shop Pro's rectangular selector tool. Click somewhere near the top left corner of the graphic (at the point you want to make the new top left corner of your cropped image), and drag the mouse pointer to the other side (bottom right corner) of the image. When you release the mouse pointer, a thin box should appear around this slightly smaller portion of your graphic. From the menu, choose Image, Crop, and the graphic is cropped to that size. If everything went well, you have a smaller graphic that is just as useful for your Web site.
Our last step is to save the graphic in a file format that's useful for the Web. Choose File, Save As. In the Save As dialog box that appears, you can select the file type from a drop-down list (see fig. 9.4). Select either GIF or JPEG, type a filename, and click OK.
Figure 9.4 : Saving your graphic in a Web-compatible format.
Now you've created a graphic for use on your Web page. Use the Windows Explorer or File Manager to check the file size. You want the file to be somewhere around 20K-an ideal size for a Web page graphic.
After you decide what graphics to use, the next step is to manipulate and edit those graphics for best use on the Web. The preceding section discussed some of this manipulation (cropping and saving a graphic to make it as small as possible). Following are some other ways to use graphics applications to make your images lean, attractive, and useful:
Figure 9.5 : Adobe Photoshop allows you to choose the color bit-depth for a particular graphic.
Programs will often describe the number of colors in a graphic using either a number or something called bit-depth. An 8-bit graphic, for instance, offers 256 colors. How do you calculate these numbers? Two to the power of the bit-depth is the number of possible colors (28 = 256 colors; 216 = 65536 colors).
Some browsers (notably, Netscape) can be used to resize the graphics on-the-fly. Although this is convenient for the designer, the entire file still must be transferred across the Internet, thereby negating the benefits that smaller thumbnail graphics offer in terms of downloading speed.
Another must-have program for most Windows-based Web designers is LView Pro, a shareware graphics-manipulation program. Although the program has some of the same features as Paint Shop Pro, LView is designed less for creating images and more for changing them from one size to another or from one file format to another.
You can download LView by accessing the Web URL http://world.std.com/~mmedia/lviewp.html. Choose the version for your flavor of Windows, down-load it to your computer, extract it from its Zip archive, install it in Windows, and start it.
To resize an image to create a thumbnail, follow these steps:
Figure 9.6 : Resizing graphics in LView Pro for Windows.
If you plan to offer many thumbnails on one page, it's a good idea to make them a uniform width (or height) to keep the page orderly.
When you create thumbnails, you'll probably want to maintain the
aspect ratio of the current graphic in resizing, so that LView
keeps the height and width of the new graphic at the same ratio
as the original graphic, making the thumbnail smaller but similarly
proportioned. Don't forget to save the new file with a slightly
different name, using the appropriate file extension (GIF or JPG).
Whenever an application gives you the choice, you should save GIF files as interlaced GIFs and JPEGs as progressive JPEGs. This lets the graphics display faster in many browsers.
One very popular way to edit Web graphics is to create transparent GIFs. This process allows you to make one of the colors of your graphic (generally the background color) transparent, so that the Web page's color scheme or background graphics shows through (see fig. 9.7). Most often, it's used to give the illusion that the graphic is part of your Web page. You can use this method to add impact to your pages and to limit the size of your graphics by doing away with elaborate backgrounds.
Figure 9.7 : Regular vs. transparent GIFs.
To be rendered with a transparent background, a GIF file must
be saved in the GIF89a file format. This can be done with Paint
Shop Pro, LView Pro, Transparency for the Mac, and many other
programs. Saving a file in this format is simply a matter of deciding
what color is going to be the transparent color when the GIF is
Giving the image in your transparent GIF a shadow (in a graphics application) enhances the appearance of a graphic floating directly over the page.
One of the easiest ways to create a transparent GIF on the Mac is to use a simple application called Transparency. You can download the program from the Web page http://www.med.cornell.edu/~giles/projects.html or http://www.med. cornell.edu/~giles/projects.html.
After you download and install Transparency, double-click the program icon to start it. Pull down the File menu and choose Open. In the Open dialog box that appears, open the GIF file that you want to change to a transparent GIF. Your image is then presented in its own window (see fig. 9.8).
Figure 9.8 : Transparency for the Mac, changing a white background to transparent.
Point to the color in the GIF that you want to turn transparent. As you hold down the mouse button, a color palette appears, with the current color selected. If you want that color to turn transparent, release the mouse button. If you want some other color to be transparent (or if you prefer to use no transparency), point to the color that you want to make transparent and release the mouse button. To turn off transparency, simply select the box marked None at the top of the palette.
Now pull down the File menu and choose the Save As GIF89a command. Rename the file (or use the same name, if you want), and save it. The file now should appear in a Web browser as a transparent GIF.
Windows users can create transparent GIFs in LView Pro. To do so, follow these steps:
Figure 9.9 : Click the dropper to choose the transparent color.
When your graphics are created, cropped, resized, and saved in the appropriate formats, you're ready to add them to your Web pages. To add graphics, you use an empty tag called the <IMG> (image) tag, which you insert into the body section of your HTML document as follows:
<IMG SRC="image URL">
SRC accepts the name of the file that you want to display, and image URL (or path/filename) is the absolute (full URL) or relative path (for a local file or a file in the current directory) to the image. As the first example shows, you can display on your page any graphic file that is generally available on the Internet, even if the file resides on a remote server. For graphics files, however, it is much more likely that the file is located on the local server, so a path and filename are sufficient.
You could enter the following text in a browser:
<P>This is a test of the Image tag. Here is the image I want to
In this case, <IMG SRC="image1.gif"> is a relative path URL, suggesting that the file image1.gif is located in the same directory as the HTML document. The result would be displayed by a browser as shown in figure 9.10.
Figure 9.10 : Displaying inline graphics on a Web page.
You'll learn more about absolute and relative URLs in Chapter 10, "Hypertext and Creating Links."
An absolute URL is essential, however, if you were accessing an image on a remote site, as in the following example:
(This example is fictitious.) Please realize that using a URL to a distant site on the Internet causes that site to be accessed every time this <IMG> tag is encountered on your page, so you should probably have some sort of arrangement with that Web site's system administrator before you link to a graphic on their server.
You can add graphics links to HTML tags to do various things, including placing graphics next to text (within paragraphs) and even including graphics in lists. The following example displays the graphic flush with the left margin, with the bottom of the text that follows the image aligned with its bottom edge:
<P><IMG SRC="start.gif"> It's time to start our adventure in the world of
the Web. As you'll see below, there is much to learn. </P>
Words at the end of the first line wrap below the image (see fig. 9.11).
Figure 9.11 : Graphics within paragraph containers.
Another popular use for graphics is including them in HTML lists. Best suited for this task is the <DL> (definition) list, which allows you to use your own graphics as bullet points. (Ordered and unordered lists display their numbers or bullets in addition to the graphic.)
A <DT> (definition term) tag can accept more than one <DD> (definition) element, so you can create a bulleted list as follows:
<DD><IMG SRC="bullet.gif"> This is the first point
<DD><IMG SRC="bullet.gif"> This is the second point
<DD><IMG SRC="bullet.gif"> Here's the third point
<DD><IMG SRC="bullet.gif"> And so on.
If you're not up to creating your own bullet points, many archives of common bullets, graphics, and clipart images exist on the Web. Try CERN's images at http://www.w3.org/hypertext/WWW/Icons or a popular site like Randy's Bazaar at http://www.infi.net/~rdralph/icons/.
At the same time, you could use a definition list in conjunction with thumbnail graphics in a list that uses both the <DT> and <DD> tags. An example might be the following real estate agent's pages (see fig. 9.12):
Figure 9.12 : Use a <DL> tag to create custom bulleted lists and thumbnail lists.
<DD><EM>14101 Avondale</EM> This executive 3/2/2 is nestled among the live oak, with a beautiful view of the foothills. $139,900.
<DD><EM>3405 Main</EM> This timeless beauty is a cottage made for a prince (and/or princess!) Spacious 2/1/1 is cozy and functional at the same time, with all-new updates to this 1880s masterpiece. $89,995.
None of the HTML tags that you've encountered so far offer the option of a tag attribute-an option that somehow affects or enhances the way the tag is displayed on-screen.
The ALT attribute for the <IMG> tag is designed to accept text that describes the graphic, in case a particular browser can't display the graphic. Consider the plight of users who use Lynx or a similar text-based program to surf the Web (or users of graphical browsers that choose not to auto-load graphics). Because those users can't see the graphic, they'll want to know what they're missing.
The ALT attribute works this way:
<IMG SRC="image URL" ALT="Text description of graphic">
The following is an example:
<IMG SRC="image1.gif" ALT="Logo graphic">
For people whose browsers can't display the graphic, the ALT
attribute tells them that the graphic exists and explains what
the graphic is about.
Test your site with the Load Images option turned off so that you can see how your ALT text displays.
<IMG> can accept another attribute that specifies how graphics appear relative to other elements (like text or other graphics). Using the ALIGN attribute, you can align other elements to the top, middle, or bottom of the graphic. It follows this format:
<IMG SRC="image URL" ALIGN="direction">
The ALIGN="BOTTOM" attribute isn't necessary, because it is the default setting for the <IMG> tag.
The ALIGN attribute is designed to align text that comes after a graphic with a certain part of the graphic itself. An image with the ALIGN attribute set to TOP, for example, has any subsequent text aligned with the top of the image, like in the following example:
<IMG SRC="image1.gif" ALIGN=TOP> Descriptive text aligned to top.
Giving the <IMG> tag an ALIGN="MIDDLE" attribute forces subsequent text to begin in the middle of the graphic (see fig. 9.13):
Figure 9.13 : The ALIGN attribute for the <IMG> tag.
<IMG SRC="image1.gif" ALIGN="MIDDLE"> Descriptive text aligned to middle.
Order among the attributes that you assign to an image tag is unimportant. In fact, because SRC="URL" is technically an attribute (although a required one), you can place the ALIGN or ALT attribute before the SRC information. Anywhere you put attributes, as long as they appear between the brackets of the <IMG> tag, is acceptable.
Now that you've learned how to add images to your Web pages, you have almost doubled the things that you can do on the Web. In this example, you add graphics to a typical corporate Web page, using a couple of methods that you've learned.
To start, you need to create some graphics for your home page. If you have a corporate logo and a scanner handy, go ahead and scan in some graphics. Alternatively, you can use a graphics program to create, crop, and save your graphics as GIF or JPEG files. While you're at it, you may want to create some of your GIFs as transparent GIFs.
Create a logo, a special bullet, and a photo for use on the page. Name your GIFs LOGO.GIF, BULLET.GIF, and PHOTO.GIF, or something similar. (If you have already created a Web site, feel free to name the files according to the organizational system that you're using for the site. You can also use JPEG graphics if you so desire.) Then load your HTML template, and save it as a new HTML document. Between the body tags, type something like Listing 9.1.
Listing 9.1 images.html Using <IMG> to Create Images
<IMG SRC="logo.gif" ALT="RealCorp Logo">
<H1>Welcome to RealCorp's Web Site</H1>
<H2><IMG SRC="photo.gif" ALT="Photo of CEO Bob MacFay" ALIGN=MIDDLE><EM>I'm Bob MacFay, CEO of RealCorp...</EM></H2>
<P>We at RealCorp make it our business to be as productive and hard working as you are. That's why we've set up this Web site...to work a little harder, so you don't have to. Take a look at the various services our company offers, and maybe you'll see why we like to say, "We're the hardest working corporation all week, every week."</P>
<DD><IMG SRC="bullet.gif" ALT="-" ALIGN=MIDDLE> Full service plans for any size of customers
<DD><IMG SRC="bullet.gif" ALT="-" ALIGN=MIDDLE> On-time service calls, any time, any day of the week
<DD><IMG SRC="bullet.gif" ALT="-" ALIGN=MIDDLE> Fully-equipped mobile
<DD><IMG SRC="bullet.gif" ALT="-" ALIGN=MIDDLE> Time honored appreciate for quality over expediency
Although the ALT attribute is optional and the bulleted list may survive without it, the example uses ASCII to substitute hyphens for the bullet graphics if the browser can't display images. In most cases, you'll want to describe an image that a user can't view. For an element such as a bullet, though, you can use the ALT attribute to substitute an ASCII character for the graphic.
For the photo of the CEO, the <IMG> tag is called within the <H2> tag, because the <H2> container (like a paragraph) otherwise would insert a carriage return and force the words I'm Bob MacFay... to appear below the photo. Including the <IMG> tag inside the <H2> tag allows the text to appear next to the photo (see fig. 9.14).
Figure 9.14 : Sample Web page, including some different attributes for the <IMG> tag.
Play with this example a little bit to get a feel for when you should place the <IMG> tag within another HTML container and when you can leave the tag out on its own. A page sometimes looks completely different, based only on where you place your image tags.
Creating and manipulating graphics for display on the World Wide Web is somewhat different from the procedures for many other media, because Web graphic files need to be much smaller. The smaller a graphic, the fewer colors it uses; and the more compressed a file, the better the experience for the user. Web designers need to know how to use some fairly specialized graphics programs.
One of the most interesting manipulations of a Web graphic is the transparent GIF file, which makes the graphic seem to be floating above the Web page-or makes the Web page the actual background for the graphic. You need special techniques and programs to create such a file.
After you create some fast-loading, attractive graphics, placing them on your Web pages is fairly simple. All you need is the <IMG> tag, complete with a path and filename to the graphic. Our discussion of the <IMG> tag introduces something new for HTML tags: attributes. Various attributes for the <IMG> tag allow you to add text to a graphic (for text-based browsers) and to align the text with the top, middle, or bottom of the graphic.