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So, once you have your content organized and the beginnings of a document outline, you can start doing mockups and wireframes. Now, I'd love to tell you that I always do this exactly the same way every single time, but the truth is, I just don't. I almost always start off with something like this, however, just some pencil sketches of what I'm going to be working on, what I'm going to be creating. I might do some variations on some themes. I might try to do some detailed examinations of things like header elements and footers and comments and things like that, but--and a lot of times I'll just go straight from the sketch stage into generating the code.
Now, there are other times where maybe I'm working with a client who really wants to do a lot of give and take, or maybe I'm working with another partner where I'll do a more refined mockup. And that will involve taking that to a program like Illustrator or Photoshop or Fireworks and generating a mockup from there, and sometimes I can try to get really pixel precise with it. Again, sometimes I'm doing just basic general area outlines. Now, which program I use really depends on the needs of that particular mockup. For the case of the Explore California Trail Guide site that we're going to be working on, I did the mockup in Illustrator.
The reason I chose Illustrator for that is because I knew the graphical needs were going to be fairly simple and I knew that I'm going to be working with a lot of vector artwork. But if I'm going to be working on a prototype where I have a lot of simulated interactivity, I'll probably use Fireworks. If I do something that has some really complex graphical needs, I'll probably use Photoshop. In the end, you should be aware of what all these programs bring to the table, so that you can choose the one that's right for the project you're working on, and there are even open-source programs out there like GIMP that you can use to do mockups as well.
So really, you have a lot of options when you're doing those types of mockups. Okay. So what I want to do is take a look at this mockup in a little bit more detail and discuss our structuring process in terms of choosing which tags are going to be used for which certain area. So let's go ahead and go into our mockup and take a look at that. So here I am in Illustrator. Now, although I did save the file as a JPEG as well, so if you don't have Illustrator and you want to open this up in another program or open it up within your browser and follow along with me, you can. You can find both the Illustrator file and the JPEG itself in the 04_02 folder of your exercise files.
Now, I'm just going to go ahead and start at the very top of the page. I can see really the sort of clearly defined header region of the page. It contains the navigation, the branding, and the page title itself. Now you could separate the page navigation and the heading based on the design and when I want the users to encounter the navigation. But the structure here would seem to suggest a header with the navigation and branding content inside of it, and that's how we're going to structure it. Now next, we have a two-column layout that has the principal content in this left column and the related content over here in the right column.
Now, here's where we're faced with our first really tough decision, structurally. Are we going to use a section or an article for the main content? Is the secondary content best represented through a section article or aside element? Now, just posing these questions to yourself will help you find a lot of clarity in many cases, although they also illustrate that often these are judgment calls with multiple ways to represent the content. Your job is to find the way to structure the content that best reflects how you would like it to be interpreted.
So I'm going to focus on this principal content first. Now, looking at the mockup, we can see that there's a section at the top here that identifies the content, provides a little bit of navigation to the user, and will be there regardless of which individual review the user is looking at. Now, since I don't think I would ever syndicate or repurpose this part of this, I'm going to wrap the entire containing block, including the review itself, in a section tag. Then at the top, this top information will be wrapped in a header. Now, the actual review itself, Northridge Loop review, is something that can stand on its own, so that is going to be wrapped in an article tag.
Now, I could say the same thing for the rider reviews over here in the next column. Since I could easily see them as stand-alone content, I'm going to go ahead and wrap all of them in a single article element, and then wrap each of the individual rider reviews in their own article as well. Now on the other hand, I see here kind of in the middle of this that I have these Ojai Trail Facts. Now, that's not a rider-submitted review, and it's only tangentially related to the articles themselves. So this makes it perfect for an aside element, and that's what we're going to use here.
If I continue to scroll down, there's a little bit of ad content below this. This is not content that I would syndicate or repurpose, so I probably wouldn't use an article for it. Now therefore, I'm left to choose between an aside or a section element for that. Looking at the content, I'd say it's related to the content of the page, but really only in so much that it's an ad for biking tours, and this is biking-related content. So therefore, an aside is probably the more meaningful tag in this case. Another thing to note here, very carefully, is that the ad relates to the entire page, not just the rider reviews above it.
So because of this, I'm going to make sure the aside is outside of the rider review article, not inside of it. Finally, the content that we have down here at the bottom of page, well, this is just kind of a no-brainer for a footer element. Now the footer element is not a structural element. So if I wanted any of this information in the document outline, I would need to either create further sections or structures inside of it, or use headings to create implicit sections. Now, in this case, I don't want them added to the outline, so I'm going to be really careful to structure the inside of the footer with no sectional elements.
So now that we've identified the main structural elements, we can begin coding the initial page structure. But before we get into that, however, I want to spend a little bit more time about choosing the proper structural tag based on semantics and structural intent, and I'm going to do that next.
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