Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Assignment: your problem-solving log

Due next class, Thursday the 29th -- I want you to post, to the blog, the first draft of a document that lists out the problems you have encountered and solved in the course of your website project. I'm not looking for a full academic paper, with full sentences, and so on -- but I do want you to make a list of the technical and design issues that have presented themselves to you, and the solutions you found for them. Start your document with an opening paragraph explaining what your site is, who the intended audience is, and then list out the various problems you have encountered and solved. Label the post with the tag "problems."

For instance, last year, I know when Ethan Rollo was first using Wix, there was a white halo around some of the graphics he uploaded to his site -- and I believe fixing it was a matter of saving his images in the PNG 24 format. And another issue was the long load-time for his shopping gallery -- fixing that meant finding out what the maximum display size was for the gallery pics, and scaling his images down to that size before uploading them, drastically reducing their file sizes. So a "Problem-Solving" list could simply go:

Problem: uploaded graphics have white halo.
Solution: Used PNG 24 format with transparency for images with a transparent background.

Problem: Long load-time for shopping gallery.
Solution: Found out pixel dimensions of the gallery windows, and downsized gallery pictures to that size before uploading.

If there are helpful links for any of your solutions, include them as well. For instance, I know Nick Cahill – again, from last year – looked at a few options for javascript slideshows -- a list item with a link could go:

Problem: Wanted a slideshow with thumbnails, not flash-driven, so it would show on iPads.
Solution: galleria slideshow: http://galleria.aino.se/; found out it can be modified by changing options in the code (see this page: http://galleria.aino.se/docs/1.2/options/); if there is more than one option used, use a comma between options to separate them.

Not all problems have to be strictly technical problems. For instance, they could relate to decisions you make in terms of using imagery on your website, or the way you name your navigation bars, or the way you manage comments on a forum in your site – problems that relate to design, or to capturing the audience you intend to capture.

I'm interested in having you go through this process for a number of reasons -- one, to develop some documentation on your own problem-solving process, and two, to build up a sort of database of helpful hints that can be posted to the blog -- and which you (and other students) can refer to if you encounter any similar web design problems. This will be a single post that you update as you go along -- clicking on the "edit post" option (the little pencil that appears under your post) to add to your list.

Obviously, you first post is only going to have the beginning stages of this process. This first post should include:

1. What your site is – this should be more than a one-sentence description; it should be a full paragraph, if not two or three. Imagine that you have to write up a description of your prospective website to secure funding, or to explain the details to a design firm you are hiring to design it. What are the features of the site, and how will it stand out from other sites that have similar content?

2. Who the intended audience is. What is their demographic, and what do you intend to do to attract and retain their attention?

3. By now, you should have chosen a hosting option for your site, whether you are making it from scratch, or using a hosting/template service. Explain which option for hosting you chose, and why. Are their features that will make it easier for you to update content? ARe their features that will allow you to capture your audience in some important way? This is a very early "problem" in building a site: what platform (or platforms) are you going to use to create it?

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