Week 15: Careers on the Web; Final Project Peer Critique

The end of the semester is upon us, and this will be my final update to the class website. (Please try to hold your applause until you finish reading this post.) Here’s how we’ll spend our last week in class:

On Tuesday, we will talk about what you should do if you want to pursue a career in web design, user experience design, information architecture, or any one of the other fields we’ve touched on this semester. Before you come to class, please read the following pieces:

On Thursday, we will conduct a structured peer critique of your final project websites. Please come to class with a draft of your site that you can demonstrate for your classmates on one of the lab computers.

Your final project is due on Monday, December 6, at 11:15 a.m. For our final, we will meet in our regular classroom, where each of you will give us a tour of your website and briefly discuss the challenges you faced as you worked on the project. Plan to present for 5–8 minutes.

As always, if you have any questions about these items, or if you need help with your final project, please email me or come see me during my office hours. I’ll try to be in my office as much as I can for the next week, so let me know if you need to come by during a time other than my “official” office hours. Good luck wrapping things up!

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Week 14: Midterm Exam; Thanksgiving Holiday

Brace yourselves for the shortest website update of the semester:

We will spend the entire class period on Tuesday taking the second exam. To prepare for the exam, you should review your notes and the reading assignments, especially the material we’ve covered since the first exam.

Thursday is Thanksgiving, so I don’t expect to see anyone in Moody Hall.

At this point, you should be making consistent progress on your final project. If you have not sent me an electronic copy of your MOU, please do so immediately. And if you have any questions about the technical aspects of your project, please come see me during office hours or send me an email.

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Week 13: Electronic Portfolios and Exam #2

With the final project underway, we are officially in the homestretch of the semester. In the next few weeks, you’ll be marshaling all of your web design and writing skills to create beautiful finished sites. This is my favorite part of the semester—I love watching everything come together!

Your memorandum of understanding for the final project is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday. (Use the MOU template as a starting point and print out your completed MOU.) I will review your MOU and discuss it with you on Thursday after the exam.

In class on Tuesday, we will discuss different approaches to creating electronic portfolios. Before you come to class, please read the following articles:

After reading these articles, search for examples of excellent portfolio sites and link to at least two of them in the comments section of this post. We’ll analyze some of the best ones in class on Tuesday.

On Thursday, we will have our second (and last) exam of the semester. This exam will be shorter than the first exam, but we won’t be doing anything else in class, so you will be able to work at your own pace. The exam will be open-book and open-note, and you can take the exam on paper or on your computer. When you are done with your exam, I will meet with you briefly to approve your MOU for the final project.

Update: Based on your feedback, we will postpone the second exam until Tuesday. On Thursday, we will review for the exam, and we will briefly look at several different tools that might be useful for your final projects. Before you come to class, please review some of the links under the “Templates” section on the Resources page.

Posted in Weekly Updates | 13 Comments

Week 12: Finishing Touches and Best of Delicious

Next week we will wrap up the usability testing project and begin working on our final project(s) of the semester. The “s” in parentheses on “project” is intentional, since we still need to determine how to allocate our time (both in class and out of class) during the next few weeks. The policy document lists a second exam, a client project, and an electronic portfolio, but as we discussed in class on Thursday, we may not have enough time to tackle all three of those assignments. When you come to class on Tuesday, please be ready to discuss your preferences on these items: What should stay? What should go? Do you want to work alone? Or in groups? I really want these final weeks to be productive and helpful for you as budding web designers, usability gurus, and information architects, so think carefully about what you’d like to accomplish before the semester ends.

On Tuesday, we will discuss how to put the finishing touches on your usability reports. Please bring a complete draft (print and electronic) of your report with you to class and be ready to ask any final questions about the assignment. Your final report, as well as all supporting materials (videos, audio recordings, spreadsheets, notes, etc.), should be submitted at the beginning of class on Thursday. Please review the assignment sheet for instructions about how to submit your work.

By Thursday, I will have finalized the calendar for the rest of the semester, and we will discuss the parameters for the final project(s). In class that day, we will have a “Best of Delicious” day. Sometime between now and Monday night, please take a few minutes to review the recent posts on our class homepage (you can access the older posts on Delicious itself), then select at least two posts you’d like to discuss in class on Thursday. Post your choices in the comments of this blog post, and make sure you create links to the sites. If someone else has nominated a post that you like, too, you can “second” that post in your comment. With any luck, some consensus will emerge before class on Tuesday, and I’ll announce the “official” pieces we’re going to discuss in class on Thursday. If this process doesn’t make sense, please let me know.

[Update: Before you come to class on Thursday, please read these pieces:

Be ready to discuss your reactions to these sites when we meet on Thursday.]

Posted in Weekly Updates | 9 Comments

Week 11: Making Sense of Usability Data; Drafting Prototypes

Since I’m going out of town tomorrow morning, I thought I would update the class website early this week to make sure that everyone knows what to do before I come back.

If you have not already sent me a copy of your final testing protocol for the usability unit, please do so as soon as possible. Once I have approved your protocol, you can begin administering your tests. You should complete all of your tests (8–10 subjects) by next Monday, November 1. As you conduct your tests, keep in mind the issues we discussed in class today.

Next Tuesday, we will discuss strategies for analyzing your raw data and making recommendations to your clients. Before you come to class, please print and read the usability report for the University of Washington’s libraries (PDF). In addition, please find one additional example of a successful usability report and bring it with you to class. [Update: Anna had a great idea—let's share the links to the usability reports we found in the comments section of this post. Please add a new comment to this post with your usability report.] (You can find great examples of usability reports by searching for “usability testing report” or similar phrases.) In addition, your team should bring all of its testing data to class, either in electronic or print format.

On Thursday, we will spend the day in workshop mode, developing prototypes for your usability reports. Before you come to class, your team should determine three or four possible improvements to your test site that you plan to focus on in your report.

Posted in Weekly Updates | 14 Comments

Week 10: Testing Tests, Conducting Tests

At this point in our usability testing unit, your team should have a rough draft of your usability testing protocol. Between now and Tuesday, continue to revise your protocol, and bring a final draft of the protocol to class that day. You will administer your protocol with one of your classmates as a pilot tester, then we’ll spend the rest of the class session working out the kinks in your tests. By the end of class on Tuesday, you should submit the final draft of your protocol so I can give you approval to begin conducting your tests with Real Live Humans (TM).

I will be at an academic conference on Thursday, so we will not meet as a class that day. However, your team should be conducting its usability tests throughout the remainder of the week. You should complete all of your tests no later than Monday, November 1, which will give your team ample time to compile your test results and write your report. When we meet again (on November 2), your team should come to class with all of the raw data from your tests. At that point, we will turn our attention to analyzing the data and making recommendations to your clients.

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Week 9: Usability Software, Initial Impressions, and Drafting Usability Plans

Our class discussions during Week 8 convinced me that many of you either didn’t complete the assigned readings or only skimmed them. I said this on Thursday, but I will repeat it here: I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to understand the concepts in Don’t Make Me Think and on Usability.gov. There is a LOT of material on that site, and I don’t expect you to memorize every page that you read. However, you should spend enough time on the site to become familiar with the key terms, principles, and procedures in the field of usability studies.

Before you come to class on Tuesday, you should complete the readings that were assigned for Week 8: all of Don’t Make Me Think, “Introduction to Information Architecture,” by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville, and “Super Easy Usability Testing,” by John S. Rhodes. In addition, please read the “Planning the Project” and “Analyze Current Site” sections of Usability.gov. (Note that each of these sections contains multiple pages.) Yes, this is a lot of reading for Tuesday (especially if you skipped the reading last week), but there is no other homework for the weekend. Please come to class on Tuesday ready to discuss these readings.

On Thursday, we will spend most of the day in workshop mode, drafting personas and scenarios for your usability projects. At the beginning of class, your team should submit a short (1-page) memo analyzing the current website you are testing. We will discuss the requirements for this memo in class on Tuesday, but simply stated, your memo should outline what you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the current site, as well predict the changes you think your team might recommend to your client.

Last but not least, if your team has not already held its “kick-off” meeting, you should do so in the next few days. Please use the handout I gave you on Thursday to guide your discussion. (You can find that handout on Usability.gov.) In a perfect world, your client should attend this meeting, but if that isn’t possible, hold the meeting anyway.

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Week 8: Usability, Usability, Usability

As I’ve watched you create and debug (and sometimes scrap and re-create) your CSS Zen Garden designs, I’ve been impressed with the variety of visual styles you’re using. Just think—eight weeks ago, most of you had never used cascading style sheets, and now you’ve created entirely original designs using only CSS and images. I can’t wait to see your final designs on Tuesday!

As you put the finishing touches on your site, remember that the difference between a good design and a great design lies in the details. When you’re done positioning the elements on your page, make sure you spend enough time customizing the typography and styling the individual blocks of text so they match the motif you’ve chosen.

Before you come to class on Tuesday, you should upload your finished CSS Zen Garden Redesign project. Here’s a quick list of what should be included:

  • Your project should be in a folder called “zengarden,” located in your St. Edward’s “public_html” directory. (For example, mine would be here: myweb.stedwards.edu/quinnw/zengarden/ ). Your finished design should load automatically, which means that it needs to be named “index.html.”
  • In that same directory, there should be a file called “report.html,” which contains your 400-500 word design report. To the extent that it’s possible, you should style your report.html file using the same CSS you created for your Zen Garden design.
  • Also in that directory, there should be a file called “allfiles.zip,” which contains (you guessed it) ALL of the files you’ve used for this project, including original Photoshop files, downloaded images, etc…

Please review the assignment sheet before you submit your project to make sure you’ve followed the specific instructions for creating your design, uploading your files, and writing your report. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Once we have put the Zen Garden project behind us, we will shift our focus from learning markup to exploring some big-picture concepts related to writing and publishing online. Before you come to class on Tuesday, please read pages 10–93 in Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think (our second textbook), as well “Introduction to Information Architecture,” by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. On Tuesday I will introduce Assignment 3, a team project on usability and user-centered design.

On Thursday, you will get to play the role of usability test subject in a mock usability exercise. Before you come to class, please read pages 95-167 in Don’t Make Me Think, as well as “Super Easy Usability Testing,” by John S. Rhodes.

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Week 7: Don’t Fear Your Peers, Plus a Taste of Tables

Next week we’ll be in the home stretch for the CSS Zen Garden Redesign assignment. By Tuesday you should have a solid draft of your design that you are willing to share with your peers in class. Before you come to class on Tuesday, upload your design to a directory named “zengarden” on your myweb.stedwards.edu website. We will project your designs onto the big screen and spend a few minutes critiquing them as a class.

I realize that this exercise may make some of you terribly uncomfortable, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to get this kind of feedback when you’re working on a new website design. Don’t worry—no one will be 100% happy with what they’ve done, and everyone will be at least a bit nervous about displaying their work in class. Do not be tempted to bail out on us! Regardless of how far along your design is, please show up on Tuesday ready to explain your visual motif and ask for feedback on a few specific aspects of your design.

Since we’ve been neck-deep in CSS for the past few weeks, I thought it only fair to spend some time with our greatly neglected friend: the table. Tables have fallen out of vogue in recent years, but you shouldn’t leave this class without understanding why they’re used less than they once were and, more importantly, how to use them effectively for displaying tabular data. Please read Hour 7 in the Sams book and “Bring on the Tables,” by Roger Johansson, before you come to class on Thursday.

As you can see, both of our class sessions will be packed next week, so your work on the CSS Zen Garden project will need to take place primarily on your own. If you would like me to give you some one-on-one feedback on your project, I am available to meet with you during my office hours, or at another time that’s convenient for both of us. Just drop me a line if you’d like to meet.

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Week 6: Advanced Web Typography and … TO BE DETERMINED (By You!)

It’s been a long week, so this update will be short and sweet. At this point, I have responded to every Zen Garden proposal I’ve received, so if you haven’t heard from me, please contact me ASAP with a proposal for your Zen Garden motif. Once I’ve approved your proposal, you should begin working on your design. Don’t be deceived by the apparent simplicity of this project (Hey, it’s only one page! How hard could it be?). Trust me: you’ll need to pace yourself on this assignment.

Here’s a quick overview of how we’ll spend our time in class during Week 6:

On Tuesday, we will explore some advanced typographic techniques that will come in handy as you work on your Zen Garden redesign. Before you come to class, please read Oliver Reichenstein’s “Web Design Is 95% Typography” and click through Jeff Croft’s “Elegant Web Typography” presentation. (Croft’s presentation is quite long, and it’s best viewed at full-screen size, so give yourself plenty of time for this one.) If you’re feeling ambitious, you might want to review some of my other typography bookmarks on Delicious, as well.

On Thursday, we’ll do one of two things, based on your votes. The first option is to have our first exam of the semester. The second option is to conduct a peer-review workshop for the CSS Zen Garden assignment. If you collectively choose the peer-review workshop, we’ll have the first exam on the following Tuesday (October 5th), which is two days before the Zen Garden assignment is due. I realize that would make Week 7 very hectic, so if you would prefer, we can get the test out of the way during Week 6. I will leave it up to you, so please indicate your preference by leaving a comment on this post. All you need to write in your comment is “peer review” or “test.” I’ll update this post with the outcome as soon as a clear majority has emerged. [Update: The votes are in, and we will have the first exam of the semester on Thursday. The peer-review workshop will take place next Tuesday. Please come to class on Thursday ready for the exam, which will consist of three sections: multiple choice questions, short responses (definitions and mini-essay), and a coding exercise.]

Posted in Weekly Updates | 14 Comments

Week 5: Advanced CSS Techniques

With the résumé assignment behind us, we’re ready to cover some advanced CSS techniques that will be essential to completing the CSS Zen Garden assignment. For a few weeks, I’ve been warning you that things are about to get more complex, and those prophecies will be fulfilled in Week 5. If you found yourself struggling to complete the in-class CSS workshop exercise on Thursday, you’ll need to spend some quality time with the textbook and your computer over the next two weeks. For many of you, it won’t be enough just to do the readings; you’ll need to download the source code and follow the step-by-step exercises in the book.

On Tuesday, we’ll review some CSS properties we’ve already covered (margin, border, padding, etc.) and spend more time discussing the “box model.” Please read Hour 14 and Hour 15 in the Sams book before you come to class. In addition, you should spend some time this weekend looking at various CSS Zen Garden designs. When you find one that you really like, you should download all of its components (HTML file, CSS file, and image files) and re-create the site so it functions properly on a flash drive. (The assignment sheet has more details about this step of the assignment.) Bring your “off-line” Zen Garden design to class on a flash drive on Tuesday. [Update: I created a short video that explains how to complete this task.]

On Thursday, we’ll see how simple HTML lists can be styled to function as navigation menus. Please read Hour 16 and Hour 17 in the Sams book before you come to class. In addition, you should also decide on a theme or motif for your CSS Zen Garden project by Thursday. Please email me before you come to class with a short proposal (a few sentences is fine) describing your plans for the Zen Garden assignment.

If you want to talk about ideas for your Zen Garden site, feel free to stop by during my office hours or send me an email earlier in the week.

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Week 4: Working with Images, Getting Zen with CSS

I enjoyed looking at the drafts of your résumé pages in class yesterday, and I’m excited to see how they turn out. Some of you are ready to put the finishing touches on your résumé, while others may need to spend more time cleaning up your code. (The W3C Validator is a harsh master!) Don’t forget that the résumé assignment is due at the beginning of class next Thursday. Please review the assignment details before you submit your project, and don’t forget the final piece of the assignment: a one-page memo explaining and justifying the choices you made as worked on your résumé.

If you’re wondering how to focus your energies during the coming week, here are a few tips to ensure your success on the résumé project:

  • We have spent a lot of time in class adding colors and typefaces to our stylesheets, so I’ll be looking for evidence that you know how to go beyond the default colors and fonts imposed by your browser.
  • We haven’t spent as much time on CSS positioning (we’ll get there soon!), so I don’t expect to see incredibly complex page layouts. Your résumé doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective.
  • Along the same lines, remember that you’re creating a professional résumé designed to be seen by potential employers. Yes, you should inject some of your personality into the design, but a résumé is not the best place to take big risks with an outlandish design.
  • This first assignment is designed, in part, to see how well you’ve been paying attention to the readings in our textbook. Your code should be clean and well organized, and your XHTML and CSS should validate. (You’ll find links to the W3C validators in the new “Quick Links” sidebar on the right.)
  • The assignment sheet is very specific about what you should name your files and where they should be located. Please follow these directions to the letter.

On Tuesday, we will begin with a few minutes of Q&A about the résumé assignment, so please come ready to ask any last-minute questions you might have. Afterwards, we’ll move on to bigger and better things—like finding, editing, and inserting images into web pages. Please read Hour 10 and Hour 11 in the Sams book before you come to class.

I know you’ll be finishing up your résumés, so we won’t have a reading assignment for Thursday. After you submit your résumé projects at the beginning of class, I will introduce our next assignment: the CSS Zen Garden redesign. If you’d like a sneak-peek of what you’ll be working on, you might want to peruse the CSS Zen Garden site before you come to class.

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Week 3: Lists, Typography, Links, and Color

I hope that yesterday’s in-class discussion about online résumés gave you some inspiration for your individual résumés, and I hope that all of you are keeping pace with the tutorials in the textbook. If you’re falling behind, please take some time this weekend to catch up. If you’ve put in the time with the exercises in the book and you’re still feeling lost, please come see me during office hours or email me to set up an appointment.

On Tuesday, we will continue our discussion of CSS typography and experiment with three types of HTML lists. Please read Hour 5 and Hour 6 in the Sams book before you come to class. In addition, you should bring your fully coded HTML résumé and its accompanying style sheet to class. Hour 5 should have inspired to you add some lists to your HTML résumé, and while your CSS file doesn’t need to be finished, it should be linked to your HTML file and contain at least a few properties. We will spend roughly half of Tuesday’s class session in workshop mode, so you’ll have a chance to ask questions about any problems you’re having with your résumé.

On Thursday, we will spend most of the day in a peer critique workshop, providing feedback on one another’s online résumés. By this point, you should have a complete draft of your résumé, including customized typography and colors. Before our workshop, though, we will quickly review Hour 8 and Hour 9 in the Sams book, which cover links and colors, respectively. Please be sure to read those chapters before you come to class.

Finally, you may have noticed a new sidebar on the class website labeled “Delicious Links.” Right now, all the links are mine, but that will change starting next week. Sometime this weekend, register for a Delicious account and make note of your username and password. When we have a few spare minutes in class, I’ll show you how to add your own bookmarks to the class website.

If you have any questions about these plans, leave a comment on this post or drop me a line via email. Otherwise, enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Posted in Weekly Updates | 2 Comments

Online Résumés

In class on Tuesday, I asked you to find two well-designed online résumés and come to class on Thursday ready to share what you found. I’ll start things off with a few of my own links:

  • Sample Resume Template — This site hosts a very professional résumé template that you can download and customize. Since we are developing our own résumé designs for this assignment, please don’t use this template as-is. However, you may want to refer to it for inspiration.
  • Derek N. Mueller — Dr. Mueller’s curriculum vitae (an academic résumé) is simple (note the lack of color), but incredibly effective, thanks to excellent organization and bold headings.
  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick — Dr. Fitzpatrick’s c.v. is a great example of how a résumé can function as part of a WordPress site. Notice how easy it is to navigate the page, and pay particular attention to the use of sidebars on the right-hand side of the page.
  • Tanya Merone — A beautiful one-page résumé/portfolio, completely unlike the other examples linked above. This is a great example of how to incorporate visual material into a résumé, and it may give you ideas for the homepage portion of your project.

Please respond to this post with links to the résumés you found. If possible, write a sentence or two about why you like each résumé. If you’d like to post links to more than two résumés, please feel free to do so.

Posted in Class Activities | 18 Comments

Week 2: HTML and CSS Basics; Résumé Workshop

We started Week 1 going 90 miles per hour, with the vocabulary pre-test, but I hope we ended the week at a more reasonable pace. As I mentioned in class, some of you who have experience building websites may find the next few class periods moving a little slower than you’d like, but trust me—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to push yourselves in the coming weeks. And if you feel like you aren’t being challenged enough, please come see me and we’ll find ways to make these introductory assignments valuable for you.

Next week, we will focus on the basics of HTML and CSS, using the online résumé assignment to learn some of web design’s foundational concepts. On Tuesday, we will continue our discussion about FTP and setting up a workflow for building websites, then we will work on applying basic XHTML tags to a pre-existing document. Please read Hour 2 and Hour 3 in the Sams book before you come to class and bring an electronic version of your current résumé to class. You can make modifications to the content of your résumé as we work on this first assignment, but the version you bring to class on Tuesday should be as close to “finished” as possible.

On Thursday, we will learn how to link cascading style sheets (CSS) to HTML pages and practice applying simple style declarations to our résumé pages. Your only homework for Thursday is to read Hour 4 in the Sams book. A word of warning: Hour 4 is when the textbook begins to get more complex, so you’ll need to spend enough time with each chapter to really understand the new concepts before you come to class each day. Yes, the book is arranged into 24 one-hour lessons, but you might need to spend more than one hour working through each chapter.

By the end of Week 2, you should have a well-coded résumé and the makings of a well-styled résumé. If you’re doing all the reading and paying attention in class and you’re still feeling lost, please come see me during my office hours. The material in this class will only get more complex as the semester progresses, so if things aren’t clicking for you, now is the time to address the problem.

If you have any questions about Week 2, or about anything else related to our class, leave a comment below or send me an email. Otherwise, I’ll see you on Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

Posted in Weekly Updates | Comments Off

Welcome to Writing and Publishing on the Web!

Welcome to ENGW 3332: Writing and Publishing on the Web. This website will function as the online headquarters for our class this semester. Each week, I will post an update to the website with details about coming week, deadline reminders, links to helpful resources, etc… I plan to use SEU’s Blackboard site to record your grades, but otherwise, everything related to this course will be posted here. And given that this class is about writing for the web, it seems appropriate that you should help me build this website as the semester progresses. (We’ll talk more about the particulars of that assignment soon.) There isn’t much to look at now, but by the end of the semester, this site will contain a multitude of resources related to our topic of study.

A bit about me: I’m a new assistant professor at St. Edward’s University. For the past six years, I have been completing my graduate work at Iowa State University and teaching classes in ISU’s English Department. I study the relationship between rhetoric and technology, and my dissertation focused on the role of ethos in online communities. I have been building websites since 1999, and I do a lot of web consulting for small businesses and nonprofit groups that need help getting (or getting up to date) online. When I’m not staring at a computer screen, I love to cook, read, and spend time with my wife, a brilliant freelance writer, and our two daughters. We haven’t quite gotten used to the heat in Austin, but otherwise, we love it here.

After I gather your input in class on Tuesday, I will finalize the syllabus and bring it to class on Thursday. In the meantime, please complete the following tasks before you come to class on Thursday:

  • Read Hour 1 in the Teach Yourself HTML and CSS book, and come to class with any questions you have about the reading.
  • Think about the ongoing blogging assignment we discussed in class, and once you have settled on a topic and/or name for your site, create a new blog at WordPress.com. (Note: you will be sharing your blog with everyone in this class, so make sure you are comfortable with what you do there.)

Finally, a quick note about this website. Throughout the semester, I’ll be asking you to respond to posts on this website. To help you get comfortable with that process, please add a comment to this post that introduces yourself, links to your new WordPress blog, and answers the following question: What is one specific thing you want to learn to do in ENGW 3332? Before you post, a couple of warnings: (1) Your classmates will see what you write, so don’t include anything intended just for me. (2) This website is public, so we will stick to using first names only. Also, please be sure to use the same email address every time you post to the class website. Once I “approve” your first comment on the site, you will be able to post comments for the rest of the semester without waiting for me to approve them.

Posted in Weekly Updates | 23 Comments