Designer Blog

Writing for the Web


Overview

Designing a web site is fun and, more than occasionally, frustrating. I am experiencing that frustration on the morning I type this assignment.

Each time I teach this course, I re-design the web site. Preferences and standards change. A design that I thought was cool looking starts resembling my Mom's avocado and goldenrod-colored kitchen in the 1970s. In my re-design I changed a few links. I have typed, or had Dreamweaver help install, thousands of links over the years. Now, as I write, I am combing through our web site replacing a single, simple, prominent link. Truth be told, I have better things to do and it's embarrassing for someone professing to know a thing or two about web design to make such an error. To my further embarrassment I know sitting out there, despite my best efforts, among the hundreds of lines of HTML and CSS is another mistake. A small mistake I hope only I see and can find (but if you find it before I do please promise to e-mail me!).

I make this confession because, like your web site, mine is a hand-made thing — a product of experimentation, trial and error, web surfing, attention to detail and pride. You will try many things in designing, writing and testing your site. You will experiment, go through many trials and many errors and, in the end, you will have something, I trust, of which you can be proud. In this assignment, I want you to document not only the process of building your site but anything you encounter along the way that (more or less) relates to how you interact with the world wide web.

Approaches

I want you to begin your Designer Blog at the beginning — as shortly after reading this assignment as possible. I will look at your blog, specifically, 5 times during the semester (including at the time of the final) as indicated on the course calendar. I would like you post your blog on our WordPress site or the wiki. Or you may publish your blog on, well, your blog if you are currently doing such a thing.

The best blogs tend to be personal and pithy, irreverent and insightful, and take advantage of the existing digital media — video embeds, images and music. In short, good blogs are creative approaches to often serious topics. And so it will be with your blog. An initial suggestion if I might: Find a blog, or blogs, that you visit frequently and get a sense of the look and feel, tone, and structure. Analyze those things, perhaps in your blog itself, and see what you might want to emulate.

I ask that you blog regularly, not just at the times when the blog is due. Although word count is not usually a factor with blogs, the goal for the semester is a length of 1500 to 2000 words. A much shorter blog suggests a lack of effort, a much longer blog verbosity.

In blogging, I want you to think associatively and creatively about your design process. You can, of course, chronicle the decisions you make in building your site. But I would like you to go beyond a simple, made for class, diary. Think critically and broadly about the process of design not only the design of the site, but also the design of your online voice and style. Consider the sites you visit frequently: What do you think "works" — or does not work — online? What are the specific characteristics of a successful site? Of a successful online voice and presence? What keeps you returning to a site? Or, why did you visit a site only once?

In thinking about design and your online persona, consider the broader aspects of web, and digital, culture in which you engage. How much time do you spend online? What is your pattern of online use? Do you, for example, visit routinely a particular number of sites? Do your visits have a pattern? In order to have a social life, must you be on Facebook? In order to have an academic life, must you be on Scholar? What other digital technologies do you use? Outside of course assignments, is your writing mainly texting? How, and how often, do use Google? Do you "explore" and experiment (with, say, different identities) online? How are your online encounters affecting not only your ideas about web design, writing and usability, but also your ideas about work, success and friendship? What is funny on-line?

Consider your blog a platform for experimentation. For example, if there are skills, ideas or topics that you want to learn that the class does not fully cover — XML, Photoshop, Javascript, online reporting — investigate these skills, ideas or topics, experiment with learning them, show your learning process on your blog and, perhaps, integrate what you learn into your web site.

I would like your blog to be as multi-faceted as you are. While your focus is designing, writing and usability on-line, think about these subjects beyond the creation of your web site and you will explore your attitudes and ideas towards being digital. Your changing attitudes and ideas affect how you conduct yourself online in our class and in your work and life.

Due: As indicated on the course calendar.
Given a target of 1500 to 2000 total words, posting 300 to 400 words to the WordPress site, or wiki (or other platform) during each reporting period will keep your blog on track.

Web Writing