The Anatomy of a Web page

Before we can begin to gather the information we will need to assess the accuracy and authority of a Web site, we will need to figure out what this information is and where to find it. In this part of the guide, I will describe the different parts of a Web page, and explain what information can be found in each part.

Depending on the nature of the content, not all Web authors follow exactly the page layout conventions I will describe here, though better authors usually do. But however an author designs a Web site, the layout of the pages should at least be consistent. In better Web sites, all of the pages share the same basic structure and layout.

I should mention here that the design of a Web site makes a powerful statement about its author and the information it contains. Authors that take little care in the way they present their information probably do not have information worth caring about to begin with.

Pages come in two varieties:

Home pages:
A home page is like a title page, table of contents, index, and introduction combined. The home page is the first, or "top," page in a site. It usually contains some prefatory material and a complete list of links to each of the site's major content pages, or to each major content section in larger sites.

Content pages:
Where home pages describe what information the site contains, content pages contain the information itself. Each content page should have a link "up" to the site's home page. If you follow a link from one page to the content page on another site, look for the link (usually at the bottom or top) to the destination site's home page to see what else is available there.

Most Web pages, whether home or content pages, have a similar basic structure. Here is the layout of a typical Web page:




From Horton and Lynch, Yale C/AIM Style Manual, 1st Ed. 2nd edition available at:
http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/contents.html

The Headerusually contains a text title or graphic banner. The header may also contain links that lead directly to other pages in the site, or a set of "next" and "previous" buttons linked to the next and previous pages in a sequence.

The Body contains the actual content, including text and links. Links --those active "hot-words" in the text-- can lead to another page, a different site, or to a different section of the same page.

The Footercontains critical information about the page: it usually shows the date when it was created and last updated, the name of the author, the e-mail address of the author, and the name of the institution, organization, or company that sponsors the site.

Knowing the date when a page was written and published on the Web is an important step in evaluating its content. If you encounter a page which does not have this information, your Web browser can at least tell you when it was published. On Netscape Navigator 4.0, for instance, select "Page Info" under the "View" menu to find out when the open page was put on its server.


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Version 1.2
Copr. 1997 Craig Branham
BRANHACC@SLU.EDU
Saint Louis University
Created: 27-March-97
Last Modified: 24-Oct-97

URL for this Document: http://www.slu.edu/departments/english/research/page0.html