Welcome to the World, Baby WAF

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In my first effort as a web writer/designer, I have created a website for the JoAnne Boyle World Affairs Forum (WAF), an organization which I am a part of at Seton Hill University.  The site was completed as part of the class, EL236 Writing for the Internet.

As a practical junction to my website, I also drafted a set of instructions, which in theory, would be used by another WAF member to maintain, update, and add to the site.

I coded in basic HTML and CSS in Microsoft NotePad, but I aimed for the highest standard of professional design, organization and writing that my skills could allow.  All questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome!

The Project:

My work as part of the course was, in part, a semester-long preparation for creating the WAF website. I was challenged to learn different skills and perspectives; in a way, then, I was asked to try on several different "hats," the hat of "copy writer," "internet programmer," "cultural analyst," "creative writer," "usability tester" and "usability test administrator."  My site, then, should not only be viewed as an informational/corporate website about WAF, but as a first exhibition of all the elements necessary for effective, albeit simplistic, web communication.

The Process:

In making both the WAF website and the maintenance instructions, I discovered that user-testing, student-to-student, and student-to-instructor interaction was essential. 

Usability testing was a topic we covered as part of the course; we read about it, discussed its practices and uses, acted as a tester and designed, administered, and reviewed our own usability test.  But during the actual design and implication of my project (and my classmate's projects), the benefits of user testing came to fruition. We were required to submit a formal Alpha Release and Beta Release, a respective "early" and "late" rough draft, and the subsequent Alpha testing and Beta Testing were much-needed benchmarks in what developed into a long succession of small steps.  

My blogging doesn't cover the entire spectrum of interaction I had, though.  In class, I was able to get informal "tests" and reactions from classmates Chelsea, Anne, and Aero. Outside of class I tested two different "cold" users, on both my site and my instructions.  

From this process of interaction, both formal and informal, I made some significant changes.

Based on user's responses in Alpha testing, I:

  •   Added footer information: the linked SHU logo and SHU information
  • "Texturized" the black sidebar to add visual interest
  • Added information to the "Events" page about attending events; who can attend, advertising, and cost

Users also suggested adding more pictures; I considered this, and would have liked to add more pictures of our speakers, but I decided against this given the sensitive nature of their situations.  Some are exiled and some are from countries undergoing political persecution.

Based on user's responses in Beta testing, I:

  • Expanded the WAF history on the
  •  "About WAF" page
  • Added a project "disclaimer" Credited myself as the site's creator and added my contact information in relation to the site (This addition was also made to appease other user's suggestions about adding a vehicle for interaction on the site - like a blog or message board.  Given time and my abilities, I was unable to do anything that extensive.  In the future, perhaps...)
  • Changed the title banner's colors
  •  Expanded my instructions to include HTML examples

On my own, I also:

  • Reorganized the homepage information for clarity
  • Credited all pictures
  • Changed the color of links to match the updated banner

In Summation:

Each class period and each hour at home in which I worked on my site was one small step toward the finished product.  And I didn't even realize it.  Around the point of my Beta Release, I look at my site and realized with surprise that I had nothing left to do (from my point of view, at least; but that's where those all-important testers came in).  I was baffled that I had accomplished that much; where, it the middle of checking for closed tags and uploading graphics with the just right color, did I finish my site?   Looking back, I see now that it was in these small moves.

And this process is something I can apply to any future project, website or otherwise; s very smooth process of proposal, draft, testing, revision, re-testing, revision.  However, as a course project, there was a very clear-cut point of "completion" for creating this site. Outside the academic setting, though, I think there is no real "finished" project.  Projects can always be tested, revised, and improved.  Even what I've created here could (possibly) change, grow, revise, and "live" on the internet indefinitely.  Now how about that for a sense of accomplishment? 

Notes:

I would not have been able to complete this project without consulting the work of:

Elizabeth Castro, Creating a Web Page with HTML

Steve Krug, Don't Make me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Crawford Kilian, Writing for the Web 3.0 

Van SEO Design CSS blog, http://www.vanseodesign.com/blog/category/css/

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