Civil Rights Group Frames Its Web Site

"With few programers but an abundance of creative people, the NAACP is about to enter the information age"... Open Computing, November 1995


The Computer Services Group design team: Tony Portillo (left) Walter Wilson (center) and Larry Suto (right)

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is using technology to help overcome its stodgy image.

A new project will bring the NAACP, its branches, and much of its membership into the information age via the World Wide Web. Called the NAACP Internet Project, the plan consist of two parts, according to Walter Wilson, chair of the project committee.

First, the organization is in the process of out fitting each of its branches with anywhere from 4 to 50 PCs. Each PC will come equipped with a modem and Internet access. The second piece of the project is to create the NAACP Web site.

The point: to shore up the organizations sagging membership and generate an increase in contributions.

The 86-year-old NAACP is the oldest and largest civil-rights organization in the United States and has been a major progressive force in American history. The Baltimore-based organization's membership totals about 400,000 individuals with 2,500 branches.

But there was a recent controversy over the group's financial and administrative management. Because of a declining membership and diminishing contributions, some members are concerned that the organization may have become outdated and out flanked by newer groups.

One of the problems faced by the NAACP was its lack of technical expertise. "We do have programmers available to us.But they're in short supply," says Wilson, referring to the need for people who can program in hyper text markup language (HTML), the Web's document-structuring language that is still evolving.

Handling a Complex Design Process

The NAACP's Web pages are being designed primarily by Wilson's private company, the Computer Services Group, Based in Camble, California.

Graphic artist and designers use Adobe Illustrator for logos, diagrams, decorative features, text, and vector-based illustrations. The Illustrator files are placed in Adobe PhotoShop, where they are rastorized to the chosen resolution of the document. PhotoShop is also used to store and manipulate the hundreds of scanned images, photo, art work, and composites that will be part of the NAACP Web pages.

The PhotoShop files re then converted to GIF images. This is because the GIF format is widely recognized by most Web browsers. In fact, if a FrameMaker document contains mon-GIF images, they will simply be ignore during HTML generation.

The final steps are performed in FrameMaker. The product's newest release, FrameMaker 5.0, has a number of enhancements that enable text to wrap around graphics, and allow headlines, footnotes, tables and other page elements to span multiple columns. In addition, imported text can be dynamically linked with its source.

The product also offers a complete set of drawing tools and complex hyper text authoring functions, which allow users to create read-only hyper text documents that work with the proprietary Frame Viewer.

An Overall Plan

The NAACP Internet project, which should be complete by November, has been in the works for two and a half years. However, the web pages have only been in production for a about a year now. The reason for the delay was that the association had to develop an overall plan for the Web site before producing the pages.

Because NAACP leaders are occasionally exposed to threats to their safety, the designers were required to implement security threat once it was established.

The problem was solved by carefully omitting al references that might give readers clues to the whereabouts of NAACP officials or their families.

Another administrative decision was to have two separate domains: The non-profit, educational side of the venture will be dubbed "naacp.org". It will include information about African-American history, job listings, descriptions of legislative actions, and posting's of NAACP events.

The second domain, "naacp.com", will be the commercial side. Initially it will be relatively small, allowing viewers to purchase memorabilia or sigh up for some courses. Eventually, that section will provide a place for African-Americans to set up shop and engage in on line business.



Larry Stevens, writes about technology and business...



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