Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine / Volume 2, Number 3 / March 1, 1995 / Page 44

Of Style and Substance

by Lisa Schmeiser (

Style or substance? Your mother always told you to date people with the latter, yet almost anyone who's human (and honest) will admit being drawn to the former. Fortunately, that hard-to-find combination of brains and beauty is easily found on the Web - if you know where to look. As promised from last month, here are five pages which answer the question, "Is it possible to maintain both substance and style on the Web?" with a definitive yes.

The first winner of the Style and Substance award goes to a site which promotes literacy on-line by using a dead author as it spokesperson. For Ever the Twain Shall Meet is the definitive Mark Twain archive on the Web. For Ever the Twain Shall Meet wins substance points for its HTML links to Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and assorted essays, gopher and ftp links to several of Twain's less-famous works stored in Project Gutenberg, and links to other Mark Twain WWW pages. As for style, this page wins for its non-obtrusive graphics, easy-to-read interface, and efficient content organization. Twain himself said it best when he said, "apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today," - including a user-friendly literary archive.

The next S & S award goes to the Whole Frog Project at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. It wins style points for the clear, accurate, and easy-to-download images of frogs in various stages of deconstruction and substance points for the idea of using the WWW to provide students with a state-of-the-art scientific education. Besides, who can resist a page where your tour of the frog allows you to "enter the heart and fly down blood vessels, poking (your) head out at any point to see the structure of the surrounding anatomy."

Any page which opens with a full-color shot of the Blue Ridge mountains already wins style points, but the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's home page also follows through with content worth checking out. The club, which is responsible for maintaining almost 1000 miles of the Appalachian Trail through five states and the District of Columbia, offers information about trail navigation and upkeep, camping sites, and volunteering on its home page. You can also order maps, connect with other Appalachian Trail groups, and gather information on weekly hikes along the trail. The page's remaining style points come from its logically organized, easy-to-find and read contents, and its design simplicity.

The fourth S & S page, the FedWorld Home Page, also wins the Your Tax Dollars at Work Award. This site serves as the nexus for all governmental servers. Want to find NASA? The White House? The Library of Congress? With a click on one of any of the well-placed links, you can be on your way. Chock-full of every agency in FDR's alphabet soup, this page wins style points for its ease of use, eye-catching header, and handy push button links.

Last but not least, Synchronized rounds out the S&S picks. This "Novel of the Internet Era" is now available - complete with links mentioned in the narrative. Instead of a purely linear story, this page features the first paragraph from each chapter, and the subsequent chapter link. The substance and style points come from topic presentation.

Coming next month: if you can't afford Paris in the springtime, some sites to feed your spring fever...and other assorted goodies From The Nets. ¤

Lisa Schmeiser is a graduate student in technical communication. Her research interests include gender issues online, cyberjournalism, and intellectual property issues on the Internet.

Copyright © 1995 by Lisa Schmeiser. All Rights Reserved.

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