Like any other website, math web page backgrounds can make or break the visual style. While old-style sites may have been fine with a plain background, the Web 2.0 world brought about social networks, CSS, and other interactivity tools which demand that web designers put a little more style put into the website background.
One of the worst mistakes ever made in the initial days of the web was the "busy background." That is a background that has so much activity going on that it distracts from the actual content of the site. This may not only keep people from being able to read the words, or look at the images, it may also make them not want to. Some background images, when repeated, can end up being painful to look at for any length of time. There have been studies in focus groups that show that people will actively click away from an ugly background image on a site, even if the content they want is on the page.
Math Web Page Backgrounds Made Just Right
The best way to select the appropriate background for your site is to see if potential images fit certain basic design and content criteria:
- Relevance - Is the image relevant to the content of your site? A picture of a jet plane may be cool, but if it has nothing to do with the subject of your math site, it does not belong there. Whatever the image is, it should support and reinforce the primary message of your site.
- Branding - Most sites that are well-designed have a theme at the very least, consisting of certain colors and fonts used throughout the site. Your site may involve an organization such as a university or company that has a logo. While it may not be a good idea to just use the logo as a background, having a background image that has similar shapes, colors, and/or fonts will make the site seem more coherent.
- Simplicity - this is perhaps the most important quality. The human eye is attracted to motion, lines and complexity. For this reason, having a complex web background will distract the eye from important content, and make your site more difficult to read. Using faded images or silhouettes to subtly suggest a mathematical theme is much more effective than simply putting a black and white series of equations to tile along the back of your web page.
Using these guidelines, coming up with a good background image shouldn't be too difficult. But where to find it?
Sources for Background Images
The first place to begin looking for a good background image is your own work. Aside from being conveniently available, scanned images of your own math-related work has the advantage of being your property and therefore your copyright. It is not ok to simply go to the web and lift any image to use on your site - that is theft. But a scan of your own work, put into a program such as photoshop, and manipulated into the right image, is free for you to use and even share with others.
If you do choose to scan, make sure you do not use the full-size image as your background. It will need to be reduced to 72 dpi and converted to JPG or GIF format, something easily done by most imaging programs.
Here are some other sources of royalty-free images that can be used for your math web page:
- Word Processing Programs - Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, and other popular word processing programs often include clip art on various subjects which can give you an easy selection of generic images to choose from.
- Creative Commons - The CC is a new copyright technique that allows artists to control how they share their work. Many artists want the exposure, and will offer their work for free in return for attribution, or as long as it is non-commercial use. Thousands of images are available under this types of license.
- iStockPhoto - While it isn't free, a small image from this popular image library costs only $1, and there are literally millions of professionally-designed images to choose from (such as the one illustrating this article). For a small investment, an image from this source can really dress up your site.