Building sites Banners

11th February 2000 at 00:00
They come in only one shape and size. An oblong measuring 468 x 60 pixels. They can be infuriating, and they can be works of art. They are sometimes still but increasingly animated. Impossible to avoid, but getting easier to disregard, they have become the marketing language of the Internet.

They are the banner ads that festoon nearly every website. The best banners are, literally, poetry in motion - banner-bites of words dancing in and out of view. Endless hours of e-executive time are spent analysing what makes an effective banner. Some research suggests the ingenuity and artistry of the more sophisticated ones may be misplaced - that the best inducement to get a surfer to pass your way is the oldest come-on going - "Click here".

Tell pupils (this is cross-phase work, from Year 4 upwards) you want them to create a website banner (for the school site, if appropriate). Explain that its size is set to ensure all designs can be rotated and fit into the same space. Open the school's preferred art package and set the dimensions of the frame to 468 x 60 pixels. Unless the students are experienced with the package, they will need time to experiment and find out what sort of ideas are possible within the banner's confines.

Then work in sketchbooks. Tell the students you want an animated banner, but that the initial animation should be simple, such as a word or phrase printing out letter by letter, or, in part of the banner, a series of images appearing slide-show fashion. hey will soon discover that even a very short animation requires many transitions and they should draw anything between half-a-dozen and 20.

The exact dimensions of a banner depend on monitor size and settings, but the length-to-width ratio will always be around 8:1.

The next test will be to try to simulate the sketch plans in the art package. Each image in the sequence should be saved as a numbered .gif file (image), such as ani01.gif, ani02.gif. If the animation is to consist of a gradually built-up image, it is sometimes easiest to work in reverse. Design the completed image, save as ani15.gif, delete part, save as ani14.gif etc.

Once the sequence has been created, it is time to build the animation. If your art package can't do this, plenty of Shareware packages can be downloaded from the Internet and registered for less than pound;20. I have been impressed by GIF Movie Gear from www.gamani.com, but alternatives are listed at http: html.tucows.comartistsoftwarewin95imagini95.html.

The construction of an animated GIF is similar in every package. It involves loading the sequence of images previously saved and then testing. Different software will allow different types of tweaking.

The important thing is to plan, test and revise, test and revise, making the task an ideal mix of art, ICT and Damp;T. Warning: the activity is likely to become compulsive, and the best practitioners will end up earning loadsamoney more than you.

michael thorn


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