26Th Computer Applications in Archaeology

Barcelona, March 24-28 1998

Topic: Using Computers and Computer Networks in Heritage Diffusion and Teaching

Beyond traditional Web pages design - a communication language between designers and web page developers

 

José Bulas-Cruz (*), Leonel Morgado (*), Pedro Melo-Pinto (*), Mila Abreu (*),

Helena Lobo (*), Mário Guedes (*), Arlindo Santos (*), Jorge Borges (*), Joel Bicho (*),

João Barroso (*), Arsénio Reis (*) e Alberto Proença (**)

 

(*) Projecto GEIRA

University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro Computer Centre

Apt. 202, 5001 Vila Real Codex

Tel (059) 320356   Fax (059) 320480   Email: jcruz@utad.pt

(**) Projecto GEIRA

University of Minho Computer Centre

4700 Braga, Portugal

Several archaeological, historical or heritage-related entities in Northern Portugal are joining efforts to promote their activities among local communities, using interactive and multimedia technologies under the project GEIRA (URL: http://www.geira.pt/). The research team is multidisciplinary, integrating namely archaeologists, designers, multimedia technicians and computer experts. The development of Web sites that wish to draw the interest of the Internet community requires an attractive, well though-out design.

A professional Web-designer is capable of creating such designs on his own. Such professionals are hard to find, and very sought-out by companies in the area of multimedia publishing, which places those professionals beyond the financial reach of most heritage-related organisations, such as museums, archaeological parks and universities. Traditional designers, while highly skilled on conventional technologies (printed media), lack the technical expertise to efficiently implement their designs as web pages and to maintain and manage the graphical aspects of a Web site. Increasingly complex database and geographical information-driven web sites emphasise this aspect.

A mixed team is usually the best option: designers and web-page developers working together [GORMAN 1997]. This may produce a synergetic effect, using the best of both worlds. However, upon receiving a design, a developer can't grasp all of its design features at once, due to the variable nature of a web page format. Some objects are aligned, but not necessarily – they can float around on the page, responding to changes to the page's dimensions – others are aligned and must stay that way; others can be moved, but within limits. All the information regarding behaviour related with the page's variable dimensions is absent from a traditional design, which relies on fixed dimensions.

This results in problems for the design implementation team, that the designer must detect and correct. Sometimes, these errors may go undetected until well after a web site has been published, which in turn may result in unsound dynamical behaviour of the page's elements. This is all the more important when developing sites for archaeological sites, museums and other heritage-related organisations, that heavily rely on their public image.

The use of available packages can help, but does not solve this problem. These packages, e.g. [FUSION 1997], are oriented towards the development of pages with well defined dimensions, and do not support the specification of geometrical dynamic behaviour.

The development of a language for the description of the dynamical behaviour of web pages minimises the occurrence of errors, saving time and resources in the development process. It also minimises the probability of placing on a final web page graphic elements whose behaviour is unsound. The language lays a common ground between designers and developers, allowing for the development of visual tools that speed up the development process, ensure greater quality and introduce an element of clarification of the design specifications.

Figure 1: Screen of the Casa de Mateus site.

 

The model for a layout tool is being developed, based on the object-oriented programming paradigm [MEYER 1988] [WEGNER 1990] [RUMBAUGH 1991] [BOOCH 1994]. The tool will provide a designer with the means to graphically implement several page elements as she/he intends them to be, and at the same time see how these elements are positioned in the page for different page formats (width/height ratio). The specification can then be fully tuned by the designer, supplying the web-page developers with a much cleaner specification.

The development team will in turn be able to use the layout tool to get a much clearer picture of each object's intended behaviour. This ensures that the development process not only evolves faster, but also generates fewer errors. Overall, the improved communication between designers and developers results in a web-site creation process that is more efficient, more economical, and faster. This is relevant for situations where the amount and complexity of the data requires a well‑structured approach. This is the case of archaeological, historical or heritage-related Web-site projects.

Some prototype sites are under development and can be found at the following URL's:

·         International Rock Art Congress, IRAC '98 – http://www.utad.pt/actividades/IRAC/

·         3rd Peninsular Archaeology Congress – http://www.utad.pt/cap/

·         Study on the sanctuary of Panóias– http://www.utad.geira.pt/panoias/

·         Casa de Mateus http://www.utad.geira.pt/casa_mateus/

·         Abbot of Baçal Museum http://www.utad.geira.pt/abadebacal/

·         "Paços da Seda" Project – http://www.utad.geira.pt/pacosdaseda/

·         Museum of Iron Ore and of the Moncorvo Region: http://www.utad.geira.pt/ferromoncorvo/

An example screen is shown in Figure 1, from the Casa de Mateus site.

Acknowledgements

This work has been supported by the EC programs Interreg II (contract number 02/REGII/6/96) and Feder, and by FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia).

References

[BOOCH 1994] BOOCH, G. Object Oriented Design with Applications, The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company. California. USA, 1994.

[FUSION 1997] User Guide, Net Objects FUSION 2.0, NetObjects Inc., Redwood City, California, USA, 1997.

[GORMAN 1997] GORMAN, T., How CNET does it. URL site: http://www.cnet.com/, and URL document: http://www.cnet.com/Content/Builder/Business/HowCnet/?dd. Cnet, Inc., USA, 1997.

[MEYER 1988] MEYER, B.. Object‑Oriented Software Construction. Prentice‑Hall International (UK) Ltd. Hertfordshire. UK, 1988.

[RUMBAUGH 1991] RUMBAUGH, J., BLAHA M., PREMERLANI, W., EDDY F., LORENSEN, W.. Object Oriented‑Modelling and Design. Prentice‑Hall International Editions. New York. USA, 1991.

[WEGNER 1990] WEGNER, P.. Concepts and Paradigms of Object‑oriented Programming. Expansion of October 4 OOPSLA‑89 Keynote Talk. OOPS Messenger. Vol 1, Number 1, August 1990. ACM Press, 1990.