The Final Output:
Web or CD-ROM
Pros and Cons of Web and CD-ROM Interactives
world-wide access - one's resource can be accessed by anyone worldwide. depending on the subject matter and sensitivity of the material, one can either allow all users to enter the data or use a password to enter the site. this is a simple step to allow only specific users to view web material.
large install base - web use is growing exponentially in America and steadily abroad. Modems and Internet Service Care are now bundled with computers making getting on the web easy and very affordable. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are companies dealing with hooking up businesses and individual users to the web. Monthly charges for internet fees can be as low as $9.95 with unlimited access.
unlimited space - web sites can use vast databases to better serve users and business needs. server space is virtually unlimited: all one needs are hard drives which typically cost 225 dollars per gigabyte (as of 7.97)
bandwidth - downloading images, text, java-apps, and other documents takes time because of the information bottleneck between your computer and the internet. more specifically, your modem's speed and the ISP's connection to the internet. most casual web-users have a 28.8 modem, allowing for a decent data transfer rates around 1/8 MBs per second. downloading larger files, such as graphic-heavy websites and digital audio and video, 28.8 modems can seem slow. Faster connections/transfer rates cost more, but allow for quicker internet download times, ranging from 1/3 MBs per second to 2 MBs per second.
programming ease - HTML is a relatively easy programming language to learn. Both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer have WUSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) visually programmable applications allowing non-programmers to make a web page. Other commercially available programs such as PageMill, SiteMill, and Fusion will also create webpages and even may include special java-scripts and java-applets. Java-script and java-applets are still not 'cross-platform:' they wont necessarily work the same on every machine. however, this new web technology finally stabilizing and most browsers should support both program environments.
CD-ROM interactives can be created for use within a web browser environment, such
as Netscape Navigator/Internet Explorer or developed using custom code and a standalone
application, used only through the CD-ROM (MacroMind Director is a common development tool for creating standalone interactive applications.)
using a browser-based environment - most computer owners have internet access and know the browser environment. by using a pre-existing environment, users feel comfortable with the application. one can also link out of the CD-ROM demo into the infinitely larger online web material.
using a standalone application - most CD-ROMs do not user Netscape Navigator or other web-browsers for an application environment. instead, standalone applications (custom-created programs) are used. programs such as Macromind Director, mTropolis, and Proview are a few well-known programs which make standalone interactives. by double-clicking the program on the CD-ROM, the Director-made interactive would start. using one of these programs (or by programming the application from scratch in C or C++), offers a flexibility in displaying content. audio and video clips can be easily integrated into the interactive (by rollovers, prompted by other audio and/or video, etc). web audio and video have bandwidth constraints and are limited to HTML and Java commands. Director can use fancy transitions between slides/interactive plates and allow for a more 'interactive' experience.
bandwidth - because the CD-ROM sits locally (in your computer's CD drive), access time is instant. there are high transfer rates - up to 1.2 MBs per second depending on the speed of the CD drive - which allows for smooth play of audio, video, and other graphics.
large install base - almost all computers sold in the past 3 years have a CD-ROM drive. newer computer even have 12x CD-ROM drives, upping the data transfer rate to over 1.2 MBs per second.
limited space for data - a CD, whether its audio or data, can only hold 650 MBs of information. depending on the subject matter and material, 650 MBs is often plenty of space. however, extensive digital audio and video is limited because of the media's large drive space requirements. if one plans to use several video pieces, make sure to plan ahead for the space it requires on the CD (to leave room for the actual interactive data such as the main text and other graphical elements).
user access - CD-ROMs are local interactives; the CD-ROM is in your computer's CD drive. its a more personal experience. passwords can be used if only certain sections of a CD-ROM need to be accessed by certain users.
What's all this mean?
It all depends on what you need to do with your final product. Here are some questions that may answer the question which format should I use:
Determine possible resources such as newspapers, magazines, video, web sites, text books, encyclopedias, CD-ROMs, etc.
Determine what audience the content/project is aimed toward.
Is it grade school, high school, academics, general public, etc.?
What is the target audience going to be able to use to view/use the project?
Are your content resources pushing you to a particular medium/media?
How does Content effect what media one uses?
Does the project relate to others in a series of end applications?
Will there be any accompanying materials (e.g. textbooks, maps, etc.) which the user can refer?
Does the project rely on user previously established knowledge?
Is the interactive a step-by-step demonstration, in which one shows a process being carried out, or a comparison to the users work?
Try to relate the program to the world of the participant. Is it likely to appear abstract, too academic?
Will this interactive's content soon be out of date? (Does this matter?)
Serious tone/output versus comedic/humor?