Mar 17, 2003 by Information Technology Editorial Board
The SmartWebby Free Web Development Resources website (http://www.smartwebby.com/resources.asp) is a collection of articles, tutorials, web site tools and tips aimed at advanced beginners as well as more experienced web page developers. The site is part of a commercial web design business. Compared to other sites offering insights about web development resources, the Smart Webby website has two unique characteristics. First, all the resources offered are uptodate, reflecting active efforts to keep the contents current. Second, the learning resources are pegged at a level slightly above the "basic" level, and reflect a more "hands-on" orientation.
The learning goal is to provide information/knowledge about resources related to web development. The information base is not necessarily anchored at a basic, theoretical level. For example, if a certain brand of software is deemed especially suitable for a web development application, this site recommends it.
The website has the potential to teach users all aspects of web page design and creation. In addition to covering all aspects of web page design (focusing on the use of several Macromedia products like Dreamweaver and Flash),
there also are articles to help make sure the user?s web page is displayed correctly and prominently by search engines.
Target Student Population:
Primarily targeted at advanced beginner or intermediate level web designers, but is understandable for anyone at the undergraduate level of higher.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
This site is not novice-friendly. Often, the descriptions assume that users already have basic knowledge about web development. Awareness about how web pages work and how they are created will help users benefit from this website. Furthermore, this site does not cover any of the basics of housing a site on a server, creating and uploading files to the server, etc. The key focus of the included materials is on design and enhancement of web sites.
Type of Material:
Most of the information is in the form of informal reports, tips, condensed and "hands-on" recommendations about specific tools and resources useful in web development activities. Overall, this website provides a categorized listing of articles grouped according to these topics: Web Design Guide, Web Promotion Guide, Simple Dynamic HTML Guide, Flash and ASP Unleashed, Interactive Web Products (these are products for sale by SmartWebby), and Flash Actionscript Guide. For each guide category there are a number of articles, step-by-step tutorials or lists of ?Tips ?n? Tricks?.
This site provides an eclectic array of uptodate and practical information about web development resources. It is a great supplementary resource for students engaged in learning projects that require construction of new websites, or maintenance/modification work involving old websites. Overall, the materials presented at this site best serve as ancillary resources to instruction in web design. The materials are of very good quality. While these materials are categorized, there is little to tie together all the information in the form of principles or goals of web page creation and design. Also, the topics are often rather narrow in focus (e.g., validating email fields in a DHTML form), requiring additional instruction for the beginning web designer in appropriate use of many of these techniques. The materials at this site could also serve as an excellent reference for more advanced web designers who want to learn new techniques or who want to refresh their knowledge in the areas covered by this site.
Evaluation and Observation
The content quality is superb, in part because the site's contents are carefully screened and updated regularly. The Smart Webby site clearly states that it emphasizes quality over quantity. The materials included in this site are clear, logically organized, and very well-presented. The site in itself is a great example of good design. Articles are well-written and illustrated, and the tutorials are quite simple to follow. Many include cut-and-paste samples (e.g., of Java code) that the user can easily adapt to their purposes. Where techniques (e.g., playing sounds on mouse rollover) are discussed, examples are provided; where code is presented, an annotation generally follows.
Given the commercial characteristic of this website, there may be a slight bias toward Smart Webby products in the contents of this site. The coverage of topics regarding web design may not be comprehensive and tends to favor certain software (e.g., Macromedia products). One step to make this site more user-friendly is to tie together the various topics in a manner that goes beyond their organization into categories. Also, it will help improve the instructional value of this site if the user has the option of avoiding exposure to advertisements for SmartWebby products.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The resources offered in this site appear especially suitable for a top-down approach to teaching. That is, rather than have students focus on developing a basic, grass-roots, bottom-up approach to learning the fundamentals about web development resources, teachers could use the Smart Webby site as a resource to identify the most current and most important web development tools available,
and then have students learn more about each tool from other detailed sources. Overall, this site is a great resource for anyone learning to design web pages. While it is not designed to cater to novices, the information provided is fairly wide-ranging and well-presented. The site itself does a fine job of exemplifying good web design.
The contents of this site change to reflect changing developments in the evolving field of web development. Teachers need to anticipate and plan accordingly while using this resource in their classes. Finally, This site might pose difficulties for the true beginner. This is only a mild concern though, as the site?s focus is more on good design than on basic webpage construction.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Very easy to use. Information is logically organized into appropriate sub-headings. Content is clearly presented and the pages are nicely constructed.
Other Issues and Comments:
Overall, this website is a valuable learning resource. It is most suitable for intermediate to advanced learners, and offers several "hands-on" tips that will substantially improve the quality of web development efforts, and save users a lot of time and effort.