Web-Interaction Model  «Prev  Next»

Lesson 2 Signs
Objective Describe how Signs apply in the Web Interaction Context

Signs Apply in the Web Interaction Context

The first layer of the Web Interaction Model is signs and metaphors.
This layer is presented first because from a user's perspective, it is the first element a user will interact with; from a design standpoint, it is the primary planning consideration. When visitors first arrive at a site, the immediate impression they get is from the images, colors, graphics, and typeface they perceive. The "look and feel" of a site creates an instant, subconscious impression. The design team's function is to inform that impression by applying effective Signs and Metaphors.

Signs and Metaphors, Web Interaction Model

  1. Signs have practical, unambiguous meaning
  2. Symbols are more complex and have greater imaginative resonance
  3. Icons stand for an object by resemblance
  4. Metaphor is use of an image for something it does not literally denote
  5. Allegory is often symbolic representation of a moral or political concept
  6. Irony involves a twist of language, often by using the opposite of what is meant
  7. Parody is a humorous or satirical imitation

Awareness Without Advertising

Metaphor Definition

The Oxford Dictionary definition of a metaphor is the "application of a name or descriptive term or phrase to an object or action where it is not literally applicable". In this way, the metaphor is itself a semiotic sign providing meaning obtained from what is referenced. More than that, the metaphor adds to other communication by providing the association of a meaning to an unfamiliar object rather than only a familiar one. This extra ability of metaphor adds an extra layer to sign-object meaning model. Extending from the word metaphor, when we introduce the concept of a "family tree" to someone for the first time, we allow the pre-existing identity of a tree to help provide meaning to the way we can look at family history. The metaphor acts as a super-interpretant, providing an interpretation where none would normally exist. This super-interpretation makes the metaphor a vital tool in computer interface development as it can be used as a powerful sign for the audience viewing it.

Signs Present Information

To clarify what makes an effective sign, visualize a stop sign, where the letters, the color red, and the shape unite for a single purpose: getting you to stop. For designers, signs mean the visual markings or sounds that present information. A sign can be a letter, a number, a frame, a color, or a sound. When viewing the contents of a Web page, you are viewing a set of signs, which may include words, labels, symbols, icons, frames, color fields, or animation. The following table describes attributes of a variety of signs. Click any of the links in the Examples column and see sites that use signs effectively. In the next lesson, you will learn how metaphors work with signs to enrich the visitor's experience at your site.

Subscription Website Publishing
Sign Attributes Example
Words Bulk of the editorial content. The text that fills the pages therainforestsite.com
Label A word that is part of a clickable graphic, often in a carefully designed font and color. www.amazon.com
Symbol Any object that is used to represent something more than itself. May be pictorial or non-pictorial (no resemblance or logical relationship to what it is representing). pbs.org
Icon A pictorial symbol, that is a simplified, stylized image of what is represents www.yahoo.com
Color Fields Appearing within the same page, different areas of color represent divisions of content. photographymuseum.com
Animation Active graphics on a page. May be continuous, have an assigned time limit, or may require a user's action to start and stop. www.adobe.com