The Flesh and the Soul of Information. Introduction
Dmitry Kirsanov's monthly column
|The Flesh and the Soul of Information|
|The skills needed for building a great Web site are not only those of an artistic nature. To manage your information freely and efficiently, you'll need to understand some fundamental abstractions developed by philosophers and computer scientists.|
his month's article is a bit unusual for the Design Lab. My readers know that what has always interested me were not particularities of browsers, languages, or graphic programs, but the general principles of visual communication. I hope I was successful in showing that you cannot make even the most basic, minute design decisions without mastering these fundamentals, without developing an integral concept system of Web design in your mind.
This time I decided to delve even deeper
Lately, I've had a chance to communicate with many different people
concerned with Web development: visual designers who are mostly
presentation-oriented, technology architects who are mostly
structure-oriented, and customers who just need great Web sites for
their businesses and are therefore vaguely "content"-oriented. I
found their views on the basics of information dissemination not only
different, but sometimes incompatible
We'll need to research at first the origins of information abstractions, demonstrating how the stairway of abstract document representations, implemented in different software layers, helps to reveal the basic opposition of content and presentation. Then we'll see how the ideology of separating content and presentation, pioneered by SGML, found its way (admittedly, not a very straightforward one) onto the Web. Separation formalisms are only a part of the story, however, so it is important to consider to what extent these abstractions are applicable to the day-to-day document production with the technologies available at the moment. Learning from examples where design is well fitted to content, we conclude that structure is the most important tool of uniting content and presentation aspects of a document.
Revised: Apr. 19, 1998