Construction Web Sites
An Industry Primer
stellar e-commerce site design once involved unending
tedious coding, the good news is that a veritable
slew of new software tools have emerged to help
greatly automate the process. Heart-stopping photography,
audio/video streaming, 3D imaging and hordes of
other Web special effects are now within the grasp
of any design-hungry PC user. Indeed, given that
every construction industry player is continually
seeking out ways to be just a tad edgier, dazzling
and more magnetic than the competition, such tools
dont come a nanosecond too soon.
follows is a representative sampling to tried-and-true
programs that can catapult an e-commerce site beyond
the everyday along with some members of the construction
industry that are using them. Not surprisingly,
youll find most construction industry sites
are using at least some of these tools. But there
are a few construction industry sites that have
leveraged a wide spectrum of design tools to create
a truly distinctive presence on the Web. In either
case, the best of the sites portray the recognition
that e-commerce design involves much more than posting
a billboard in cyberspace. Instead, these sites
are designed to be places of business, a first contact,
an interactive tool where prospective and existing
customers can learn about a business and conduct
business there, at least on a limited scale.
Web Site Construction
serious about building a Web site, Dreamweaver 3.0
($299) by San Francisco-based Macromedia is the
industrial strength package youll want to
learn. It is designed to let you build Web pages
using images rather than HTML text, and integrates
well with related tools, such as Adobe PhotoShop.
Other bonuses: Dream Weaver enables you to ensure
your site can be downloaded by Net cruisers using
older browsers; can be optimized to ensure it does
not "overwrite" pages youve created
with other programs and enables you to select and
resize images directly on the Web page youre
creating. In short, its a powerful pro level
tool that is also accessible to the motivated beginner.
Web: www.macromedia.com. Voice: (415) 252-2000
industry example of what can be achieved with a
program like Dream Weaver can be found at Drywall
Information Trust Fund (www.drywallca.com),
based in Saratoga, CA. The Web site fires on all
cylinders with its uncluttered interface,
quick intuitive jumps to key interest areas, and
clear, crisp eye-catching imagery. Here, less is
site featuring overall design excellence can be
found at Northern Illinois Painting & Drywall
Institute (www.nipdi.com), based in Marengo,
IL. NIPDI offers a birds-eye view of its site
on its home page, a graphical data drill visitors
can use to find information quickly and eye-catching
shape and color that creates interest without clutter.
available as a programming option in any good Web
design package, interactivity enables visitors to
actually begin doing business with your firm. Beckman
& Associates (www.beckmanassociates.com),
based in Addison, IL, offers an extremely easy to
use home page interface at its site, which visitors
can use to make quick jumps to the data and info
they seek. Visitors also can take advantage of Beckmans
quote-by-email service online.
already sharp enough to create your own custom Web
site banners, backgrounds, buttons, bullets and
the like from scratch, bless you. For the rest of
us, theres NetStudio 2000 ($89) from Palo
Alto, CA-based NetStudio. This is an easy-to-use
program that enables you to rocket crucial design
elements of your Web site from the dreary to the
dramatic. Its best feature is the easy-to-grasp,
no nonsense, learn-by-doing tutorials.
Image Creation and Management
industry Web site creators who need only peripheral
graphics can probably get away with a less expensive
program. But for serious graphics aficionados looking
for industrial strength performance, nothing but
Photoshop 5.5 ($544), by San Jose, CA-based Adobe,
will do. Chances are, virtually everything you wished
you could do with an image-combine, paint, modify,
go crazy with filtering effects-can be done with
Photoshop. New features include multiple levels
of undo, text that is extremely customizable, a
magnetic pen and a magnetic lasso.
Drywall (www.bakerdrywall.com), based in
Mesquite, TX, leverages Web photography quite effectively
at its size, sporting crisp images of recent projects.
and Sons (www.flcrane.com/default.htm), based
in Fulton, MS, features a photo image mosaic on
its home page that is impressive without being overdone.
(www.icrdrywall.com), based in Tyngsboro,
MA, offers an easily cruisable "thumbnail photo"
gallery of recent projects. Thumbnail photos are
extremely user friendly, in that they download much
more quickly than full-size photos, and yet can
be enlarged instantly with a mouse click.
Animated Images to Your Site
animation creation software seems designed by digerati
determined to make you "pay your dues"
before you can uncover its secrets. Thankfully,
this isnt the case with WebSpace Animations
($149), by Ridgefield, CT-based DeMorgan Industries
Corporation. Simply pop in the CD-ROM, point-and-click
four or five times, and presto-youve lifted
the animation you want from this program right to
your construction industry Web page. Really. Choose
from 3D animated objects, letters, words, buttons
and arrows-and leave people wondering how you became
so gifted in Web animation so quickly.
Construction (www.amelcoconst.com), based
in Gardena, CA, uses an animated green globe to
add some imagistic panache to its site.
(www.phase2co.com), based in Fort Collins,
CO, uses an animated American flag to river net
cruisers attention to its site.
considered fairly sophisticated, panoramic virtual
reality is nevertheless being used by some e-commerce
sites create 360 degree "walk-arounds"
or "walk-throughs" of products, company
headquarters and the like. The standard-bearer of
panoramic VR software is Quick Time VR ($399), by
Cupertino, CA-based Apple. Essentially, users create
panoramic VR experiences by photographing a number
of angles of a scene or product, and then "stitching"
those scenes together with the software to create
a 360-degree, navigable experience.
not to TV, that is the question.
RealNetworks are pioneers and audio/video streaming
and are currently considered the industry standard
for those who have no doubts. With its RealAudio
and RealVideo Pro Bundle ($399), youll be
able to reach 115 million RealPlayer users.
scaling feature allows you to import video at any
size and scale it down for use on the Web. And an
optimal bandwidth-programming feature enables the
presentation to adapt to the specific bandwidth
of the individual user. In English: Users will enjoy
the experience whether theyre using a paltry
28.8 modem, or a Ferrari-speed T-3 Internet connection.
This article appears courtesy of Construction
Was written By Joe Dysart and can be seen in the
August 2000 edition