Website Review

This week, David Mckenzie and I agreed to re-critique each other’s sites so we can get a feel for how our updates from last week’s classes seem to go over.  I think that we have both found that friends and family are proud and love our web-sites, but don’t want to tell us negative things or don’t have the tools to give us the sort of critical feedback that our classmates aren’t afraid to give.

On David’s site, Familiar Strangers, it is clear that he addressed the issues that the class pointed out last week.

  • Boxes: We talked a lot in class about boxes and how we have too many of them. I really like that the header and footer boxes are rounded, taking away the harshness of the box. I appreciate that you took away the “grid” that was on the page before but I feel like you went just a bit too far in the opposite direction. Having the text off to the left of the header in the home page throws off the alignment and just feels off.
  • Color: This goes along with the boxes, but I don’t think you need to have the container background color and the wrapper background color all the same. Having two opposite colors for the two makes a harsh line and highlights the boxyness but if you do two shades of one color, it works better. I really like how the two shades of one color work nicely together in your blog. Maybe you could use that technique? But I do like the combination of the burgundy, blue, and ivory. It works well with the feel of  the site.
  • Organization: I think the site is very organized and leads the viewer through very nicely. I don’t mind that the sidebar navigation is in the margin on the left as it is separate from the text. There are a few pages where the text is pushed to the left, like the main page under Washington. I’m assuming that images are going to the right. If not, i would spread the text out.

All in all, I don’t think there is too much to change. It’s a really good site that is put together really well.  You’ve got a LOT of information and make it easy for people to find and understand. Hope this helps!

 

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Design Assignment Critique

This week’s blog assignment is to offer constructive criticism of one of our classmate’s design assignment. Here is David’s helpful critique of my assignment. I will be looking at Celeste Sharp’s page.

Overall, I would say Celeste has a very readable, easy to traverse page. I am assuming that this will be her homepage of her final project.

The best things about this page are:

  • the color palate. The muted tones of the background allow the headings and photos to stand out. And the burgundy of the headings adds a pop of color without taking it overboard. I also like that the hover color of the nav. bar is that same burgundy color. I suspect these colors are good choices for your time period.
  • I like the font for the header, it’s decorative but still readable and likely goes with your time period as well.
  • CARP: Contrast- The contrast of the two colored photos and the color from the nav bar and sub heads are good.
  • CARP: Alignment- The text next to the photos does not align exactly with the top of the pictures but it is consistent all the way down and does not look bad.
  • CARP: Repitition- The photos on are on the left with text to the right and are close to the same size.
  • CARP: Proximity- The spacing between the text is good as well as the space between the images.

I have just a few suggestions for improvement:

  • The line separating the explanatory text and the clickable images clearly separates that there are two different sections, however, when scrolled all the way to the top, it makes it look like that is the end of the page. I would maybe recommend fleshing out the text to explain the project in a little more detail or just taking out the decorative line and bringing up the first image.
  • CARP: Contrast- I think that adding more colored images would help the contrast just a bit more or a brighter image in the header.
  • CARP: Alignment – no suggestions.
  • CARP: Repitition – no suggestions.
  • CARP: Proximitiy- perhaps a little more padding around the images and the edge of the page on the right would give it a little more room to breathe.

I enjoyed reading the page and hope my suggestions are helpful!

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Interactivity and the Web

This week we explored The Lost Museum created by the American Social History Project and then read the article, “History and the Web, From the Illustrated Newspaper to Cyberspace: Visual Technologies and Interaction in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries” by Joshua Brown. In his essay, Brown discusses the creation of the interactive website for the Lost Museum as well as the overall concept of interactivity on the web. The essay, as Brown mentions, is a self-critical analysis of his and other multi-media creator’s works. It also is a reaction to Janet Murry’s 1997 study, “Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace.” In her study, she finds that  current websites are a kind of “‘multimedia scrapbooks’ composed of a compendium of linked older forms (whether text, image, film or audio)”. Brown implies that Murry likely concludes that this is a bad thing and operates in the rest of his essay that this is the case and he is working towards finding a new type of media that is completely web specific.

I would suggest that the “scrapbook” quality of multimedia, is actually a good thing. Having several different formats for viewers to use in order to learn, is helpful. Also, using older forms of media helps viewers feel comfortable in their use. This is not to say that the web should not evolve as every form of media does. The answer, however, does not need to completely turn away from the amalgamation of previous types of media. Brown, I think, comes to the same conclusion, to a degree. He added a link to search the archives for the Lost Museum website. Now it is possible to experience it in 3-D as originally intended and to read the text and view photos which allows for a more comprehensive experience. Perhaps someday a completely unique web-specific media will exist and we should not stop trying to find it. I hope though, that we are able to enjoy the process and appreciate what we do have now as well as what we had yesterday and what we will have tomorrow.

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Image Assignment Updated

I didn’t really blog about my image assignment as I put the preliminary page up. So, I thought now might be a good time as I have just updated the page to reflect the critique I received in class.

I found the assignment very fun, if time-consuming. Especially for a new Photoshop user, it was very important to take the time to experiment with the different tools. As an art historian, some might assume that I already have an eye for images and have an idea of what might need to be done to fix it. While this might be true, it does not mean that I know HOW to fix it.

I struggled the most with the coloring a black and white image. The magnetic lasso tool is not always great at selecting everything that you want it to (or not selecting parts that you don’t want). Skin tones are hard to match. It’s hard to find the right opacity level for certain colors. BUT, with a little experimentation and a LOT of time, I seemed to figure it out. As suggested by Dr. Petrik, I have since added little white dots in my father’s eyes, to give it a little more life. I was surprised at just what a difference it made. It isn’t a difference that is really noticeable unless you see it without them, I think.

I also fixed the proximity issue by taking some space out between sections in the page. Then, I added more text to better explain what steps I took while restoring these images. Finally, I sharpened the vignette of my grandfather and blurred the edges.

I am happy with the results but would love any further feedback to step it up even more!

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Design Details

The truth about web design is that we need both good content and good aesthetic qualities for our sites to be successful. As Carole Guevin notes in her article, “Visual Architecture: The Rule of Three,”  “some research results indicate that online, there is a 6 seconds (or less) pitch time to grab the attention of the audience!” With such a small window of time to catch a reader, it is important to make the site “pretty.”

By making the site “pretty” I mean to use the helpful tips given to us by the three articles we read this week, Guevin’s article (previously mentioned), Jakob Neilsen’s article, “Guidelines for Visualizing Links,” and Luke Wroblewski’s article, “Visible Narratives: Understanding Visual Organization.” Guevin tells us about the rule of three and how to best layout images in order to grab attention. Neilsen keeps accessibility in mind when showing us how to best include links for our readers to click on in a way that they will understand and fit with our designs. Finally, Wroblewski discusses the bigger picture in design with tips on how to layout a page so that the reader will follow it with their eyes.

All of these articles lead back to Kim Glombisky and Rebecca Hagen’s book, White Space is Not Your Enemy. Each new bit of design advice gives me more to think of when designing for my Design Project and for my final web project. Even what is just mentioned in class is proving to be very helpful, such as the concept of facing people in images in towards the text and making sure a pull quote is at the top of the page so it is immediately readable for the scanning reader. Now, let’s see if I can remember all of these tips when creating my site!

 

 

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Accessibility and the Web

This week I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Joe Clark’s article, “How do Disabled People Use Computers”. He makes several thought-provoking points. I felt somewhat torn on his thoughts about the difference between “disabled people” and “people with disabilities”. I have not taken very many classes on semiotics or etymology but I think there is something to the idea of “putting the people first” in language; they are people first, disabled second. At the same time, I do think that is easy to go too far to try to appease everyone for the sake of being politically correct.

The heart of the article is more about the tittle, how computers are used by people with disabilities. I’ve been thinking about how these concepts affect us as web designers. It seems that most common ways to assist those with disabilities is with adaptive technology. In his description of this technology, Clark was very informative.

He provides a few ways that web designers can try to help as well. The most that we can do, according to Clark, is to try to aid the visually impaired with large (or easily magnifiable) text, not using stark black and white for colors, and making the lay out easy for screen readers. Indeed, after trying the screen reader simulation, it is clear that it takes some time to get used to understanding a website in such a format. Anything that we can do to assist in making it easier is important.

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Helpful Hints

Our assignment this week for our blogs is to find “dork shorts” or quick helpful resources for our projects. As someone who had never used Dreamweaver or Photoshop before this class, I feel like every resource we have used is extremely helpful for me. Most helpful for me has been Kim Glombisky and Rebecca Hagen’s book, White Space is Not Your Enemy. Their conversational tone and thorough explanations helpfully explain the basic concepts of design. That is not quite the assignment though.

I was not sure what to put down for this assignment until I came across a picture in Pinterest. As I was scrolling through the many images on the site, I came across one that is of a woman’s mouth with her tongue coming out in process of licking her lips. Her tongue, however, is oddly shaped. It looks as though it is transforming into some sort of lizard. When I clicked on the image, there was a link to a website that shows how to transform two images into one in Photoshop, http://effects.worth1000.com/tutorials/161192/161192-the-making-of-lust. Upon clicking around on the site, http://www.worth1000.com/, I found that it is full of tutorials for Photoshop effects. The tutorials range in difficulty from the really basic like creating a new background for a selected image to the advanced like zombifying an image. The site seems to be a very useful tool and I will probably find lots of fun things to try on my photos from here.

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Photographic Trickery

After reading Errol Morris’s Article, “The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock,” I find myself contemplating the “truth” of photography. I think Morris makes a strong argument that those who feel as though the photographs of the F.S.A. were propagandistic and intended to trick the public are right and that those who feel like these photographers accurately captured the feeling of the time are also correct.

Morris raises many questions. Just a few are: is the intention of the artist more important than the recording the scene, exactly as it was found? Does posing a photograph automatically suggest a lack of integrity? Is there a difference between photography as art versus photography as documentation? There are no easy answers to any of these questions. It may be that each photograph needs to be looked at case-by-case. It is important to realize that there is no such thing as objective photography. That doesn’t mean that photos that are subjective hold no value or convey no useful information. As Morris discusses with Bill Ganzel in regard to the controversy surrounding Rothstien’s photo, “Fleeing the Dust Storm,” the two come to the conclusion that whether or not he pose some of the photo, “it portrays a larger reality” and therefore still holds value.

Now, I am contemplating this article in relationship to my website. I will be altering photos in order to best capture the attention of my readers and illustrate my point. The integrity of my images is important and I will not be adding people or things that would not normally be found in the locations of my photos. On the other hand, slightly changing color, inverting the photo to make people face the text, or otherwise tweaking my images to have them better serve my website are common tools of the designer and tools I will be using.

Many people react negatively when they find out that many of the masters of oil painting or sculpture have their students do most of the work and come in later in the process to make the finishing touches. This fact does not degrade the art or integrity of the artist. It is a “truth” of the art world.

 

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Photoshop Phun

After reading some of The Non-Designer’s Photoshop Book by Robin Williams and John Tollett and watching some of the Photoshop CS5 for the Web tutorials by Jan Kabili, I immediately whitened my teeth, made myself thinner, and “healed” my red-face in several of my own photos. For practice reasons, of course. Then, I began to think about how the applications that I’ve learned (beyond those that I have just mentioned) will assist me in my website projects.

Keeping in mind last week’s critiques, I though of how I can invert a picture to make sure that any people in the image are looking inward at the text, how I can change some colors to make sure my color scheme works. I am also contemplating making my own icons for my project and how that might help or hinder my design. Most importantly, I am thinking about how important my images are to pull in the interest of the reader, to illustrate the points I’ve made in my text, and to be aesthetically pleasing to both myself and my readers.  

While it is frustrating that Photoshop elements does not seem immediately able to keep up with the much more expensive version of CS5, what I have learned to use will be very helpful.

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Type Assignment Trials

As our type assignment comes due, I find that I am struggling less with the code than I thought I would. I’ve been able to embed the fonts with no problem, add a header, footer, navigation buttons, subheads and so on and so forth. The problems that I am having are with line-length, and floating an image where it sits next to the text of a paragraph rather than above or below it on its own line.

The lines on the main content of my Type page go all the way to the sidebar on the left and all the way to the edge of the content wrapper on the right. When I put in: line-length: ##px; under the content heading, nothing happens. Am I putting it in the wrong place or giving it the wrong command?

With the image, I’ve gotten it to show up and I’ve commanded it to float: right; but it doesn’t insert itself into the text like my pullquote does. Am I missing a command perhaps?

I find that once started, I can lose track of time playing with the code. With assistance from my fellow classmates and looking at previous student’s work, I seem to manage my time enough to get on to other projects and I hope that will be the case with this assignment as well.

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