Web design as a discipline is moving beyond the terminological inheritage of the print, slowly but steadily – one term at a time. Standard technologies like html5 (soon, just to be called html), CSS and the evolution of browsers changed the online realm into which we bathe, enabling behaviors onto the web that have no paper alter egos. Notions like “responsive web design“, the “chrome“, “user experience design” and the likes are all stemming from the specificity of designing online experiences. The vocabulary for interacting with online content is so broad that it makes sense to call yourself an “interaction designer” when you’re building the web – not so much when you’re putting ink on paper.
Of course, some terms are still relevant (for the time being) like the Fold for instance, referring to the visible part of the interface at the time of landing.
But a “page”? Com’on.
This is not a book.
A website does not have a start nor an end nor any physical boundaries. it is an environment.
Beyond the surface of the screen, the canvas on which stretches a piece of web content is virtually limitless, unlike a sheet of paper.
Its state can change (thanks to asynchronous methods like Ajax).
As a result, whilst the experience of reading most books is linear and sequenced by the author, on the web it is the user who controls the sequence of events appearing on its screen. Thanks to Search engines and deep linking, the first “page” might actually be an “Annex”. Therefore, a webpage has other constraints, like allowing the visitor to have a feel of where he is, where he can go, etc.
Therefore, I (deep voice) hereby declare that it is time to cut the umbilical rope and come up with a better term, for that which you call a page would not smell as bad if you’d call it a.. a… What exactly?
Here at our school, we are looking for alternatives to the word “page” or “webpage” and get away with terms like:
- node or url node if you are working on designing the mesh of internal urls
- frame if you are working on designing the global user experience unfolding in time, in that case, each point in time of the experience is to be considered like a frame of an interactive movie
- screen state from the graphical point of view, and taking into account that although the url is static, the screen layout changes its state in time thanks to techniques like ajax
Let me elaborate on my personal favorite: the frame.
The term comes from moving image media: a film, a movie, is made of (at least) 12 images per second, called a frame, and organised on a time axis. The speed of change creates the illusion of movement – moving image.
During our first edition of the “storytelling on online interactive devices” workshop focused on producing meaningful online experiences of stories imagined by our 87 Web & Multimedia students, we had them work on a document that would allow them to control the flow of the experience click after click. We called it the “Sense.flux” (it comes from French Schéma d’ENSemble du FLUX des écrans «SENSFLUX» but it really works fine in English as Sense.flux i think).
This document had them decide which links to create to where from where, think in terms of time on the web, check possible sequences of meaning to allow cinematic techniques Fast forward or flashbacks, and how meaning can best be served at each “moment” or frame.
Anyway, i’ve drifted a bit from the intended topic, so, back on “killing the page”. What do you think? Know of any valid candidate to replace the “page” ?