The Web – A Short Introduction

By Gerd Waloszek, SAP AG, SAP User Experience – December 22, 2000

What is the Web? | What are the Characteristics of the Web? | Some Dates | Some Buzz Words | Some Links

This article provides a short introduction into the Web and presents some facts, figures and links. It was taken from the SAP Interaction Design Guide for Internet Application Components in the SAP Design Guild. It is presented here for your convenience and with minor modifications only.


What is the Web?

The Web (or Worldwide Web, WWW) as we know it today – a world-embracing information network – is grounded on two important inventions:

The Web packages these ingredients into an easy to use interface, the Web page (or HTML page), which is displayed in a Web browser, such as the Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape's Navigator. This simplicity, combined with the universality of its ingredients, caused its success.

Web pages are based on HTML, the Hypertext Markup Language. This language was originally invented for structuring and describing content, not at all for creating sophisticated layouts. Hyperlinks – marked words or text passages – provide the hypertext facility for Web pages. The URL – a universal addressing mechanism – connects hyperlinks to other text passages. These may be located within the same document, or anywhere on the Internet, for example on a server in Japan, or New Zealand.

HTML was invented for the creation of linked text documents to be published and exchanged within the scientific community; but soon its capabilities were extended. Graphics were added to illustrate text documents; graphics can also act as links and and be used as graphical or pseudo-graphical menus.

Text and graphics with hyperlinks are the "core ingredients" of web pages. That is why many people still speak of "hypertext with graphics on" when they talk about the web. The multitude of information offered on the web – mostly text or illustrated text – is still the most important aspect of it.

But HTML, and thus the web, did not stop there. Tables not only added a "table feature". Web designers – a new species of designers – soon discovered tables as a useful tool for overcoming the layout limitations of HTML. Multimedia were also added – ranging from simple animated graphics to video, sound, and 3D animations. Somehow, the web evolved into a huge worldwide magazine (we use the term Web brochures for information-based Websites). This magazine is not static like a paper-based magazine – it is dynamic, colorful, sometimes even screaming, and ever changing.

From the perspective of designing Web applications, forms elements such as fields, radio buttons, checkboxes, dropdown lists, and buttons were an important addition to HTML pages, which actually marked the beginning of Web applications. These elements provide Web pages with a primitive forms functionality (compared to what GUIs can do), which makes it possible to create simple Web applications. These can, for example, be applications for ordering products, entering addresses, booking flights, and the like.

With the advent of Web applications, the idea of the Web as a commercial medium was also born – e-commerce became one of the buzz words of today. The Web as a commercial medium will change the business processes of today. It will introduce new and innovative ways of doing business. Developers and designers of Web applications are an active part of this exciting development. See below for learning some of the reasons why Web applications are developed.

Put together, the Web, as it is today, is a medium, which combines magazine and commerce aspects, or – put in other words – the aspects of information and functionality, thus blurring the distinction between text documents (or documentation) and applications and impacting how Web applications are designed.

The Web has in the meantime put on many faces: The Internet stands as a synonym for the worldwide, free, and sometimes chaotic exchange of information, while the Intranet stands for smaller information networks based on the same technique, but restricted to the use within companies or institutions. Portals are a new approach to combine information and functionality in a personalized electronic workplace – the Workplace is SAP's interpretation of this theme.


What are the Characteristics of the Web?

From the viewpoint of developing Web applications, the Web has the following characteristics:

It is a publishing medium

It is a medium for communication

It is a transport medium


Some Dates


Some Buzz Words

You find many more terms explained in the SAP Web Glossary in the Goodies section of the SAP Design Guild.


Some Links

You find more links on the Links page in the Books & People section of the SAP Design Guild.


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