Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Summative Blog Entry – As one door closes…

Looking back to the first week of the course in September 2006 I wrote a post entitled “Formative Statement”. In this post I discussed where I was at the time but more importantly where I saw myself in 2 years time. As the 2 years is now up I feel it is now an appropriate time to evaluate just how far I have come over the duration of the course.

In the “Formative Statement” I wrote:

"My aims are to complete the course to the best of my ability and gain a good grade. After completion of the course I would ideally like to go to a local University for one year and hopefully achieve a degree"

Going to University was always something that I was determined to pursue as I felt that having a degree would allow me to obtain a good job. I felt this way for the majority of the course but towards the end of the second year I began to have second thoughts. The first thing that changed my thinking was when I visited an open day for a local university. I spent the day there to see what they did, how the courses were taught and how much support students were given. After the open day I couldn’t help but feel that it just wasn’t for me and I began thinking do I really need to top my qualification up to a degree?

After mulling things over I was happy to hear that we were being visited by recruitment agency Orchard Suits to give us advice on gaining employment. I found this to be a really interesting visit and helped to clarify certain issues that I had. One thing that stuck in my mind was that the majority of potential employers see little difference between a degree and a HND. My mind was made up and I immediately started looking to find a job and amending my CV to give me the best chance possible.

Another important blog post I wrote was at the end of the first year of the course. This post was entitled “First Year Review” where I set myself several targets for the coming year and beyond.

In the “First Year Review” post I wrote several goals including:

“Gain merit grades for 3 assignments. It may be difficult to achieve merit grades right away as the criteria will change making it harder to achieve these grades, hopefully though I will be able to achieve these later on in the second year.”

I am delighted at the fact that I have been able to achieve Merit grades in every assignment that I have done so far in the second year. I have pushed to achieve Distinction grades in all these assignments and I don’t think that I am too far away. I am optimistic that I will be able to sign off in style and achieve a Distinction for my last assignment “A14 So Limitless and Free”.

Another goal I set myself in the “First Year Review” was to:

“Build a site completely using CSS as this is a vital skill to have judging by the reports that we have had from previous students who are now in employment”

As CSS was something I had very limited experience with I am pleased that I am now comfortable and confident using it. Learning different technologies is something that I have really enjoyed during the second year and I never imagined that I would be able to learn as much as I have. Throughout the second year I have experienced PHP, JavaScript and XHMTL along with CSS. As these are all industry standard technologies I think that this illustrates perfectly just how effective this course is at preparing you for employment in the trade.

This past year has been by far the most challenging period of my life so far but I think that the experience I have gained is invaluable. I am now looking forward to my future in the industry and this is due to the numerous things I have learnt over the two years of the course. I would urge anybody with an interest in making a career for themselves in web design to seriously consider taking this course.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Portfolio Design - Final Design with sizes

Following on from my last post here is my final portfolio design. I have decided to keep the reflective text in the banner but have made it much more subtle by altering the opacity on the reflection.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Porfolio Screen Design - Second Iteration

Following on from my last post here is the updated version of my portfolio screen design. I have taken into consideration the previous feedback received and made various changes. I would however welcome any additional feedback you wish to give.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

First Draft Portfolio Screen Design

Below is the first iteration of my screen design for the portfolio assignment. I would welcome any feedback you wish to give.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Competitive Analysis

Site One – Freelance Professional (http://www.mark-till-online.co.uk/)

The first site that I will analyse is Mark Till Online. I chose this website as he is a freelance web designer based in Castleford, West Yorkshire which is fairly local to me.

The first thing that strikes me about the site is that it has a clean and simple layout which helps to make it look more professional. The site contains three pages (Home, Portfolio and Contact) which only contain the most vital pieces of information that Mark needs to provide. This is an effective way of structuring the site as users would primarily want to know what he can do and how to contact him. This would be a big advantage to the end users as they would be able to locate all the information they require quickly and easily.

The site also makes excellent use of visual cues to help the user to click on the most important information. To the right hand side of the homepage there are two large buttons which stand out straight away as they are in a different colour to the rest of the page. By giving these buttons more emphasis the aim is to attract the user’s attention which will hopefully lead to them clicking on the link. This is a really effective method of getting a user to visit something which you feel is important and is something I will definitely take into consideration when I am designing my site.

Another benefit to the site is that the “Portfolio” section of the website only contains a brief collection of Mark’s work. By only showing a small selection of work he is able show only his best work and not simply every piece of work he has ever produced. This would be advantageous because if he included some of his earlier work it may not be as professional looking as his more recent work which may lead to potential clients going elsewhere.

One disadvantage I did find with the site is that it only includes one method of contact which is via on online form. Some users may not be comfortable with this and may prefer contact via telephone or email. I think that the main reason for this is because Mark only performs freelance work on the side and is currently employed elsewhere. If this were to be his primary focus I would expect at least one more method of communication whether this was simply an email address or telephone number.

Overall I think that the site has a clean and fresh feel which makes navigating around the site relatively easy. The structure of the website is also effective with only the most important pieces of information included. I think that the site could be improved by simply including more methods of contact but as this is not his full time occupation it is understandable that he has chosen not to do so.

Site Two – Interactive Media Student (http://www.katpalmer.co.uk/)

The second site that I am going to analyse is Kat Palmer’s online portfolio. I decided to analyse this portfolio as Kat is currently at the same stage as me as she is studying web design at the University of Teeside in Middlesbrough.

The first thing I noticed about the site is that all of the text uses a centred layout. This is quite a negative aspect because centering text makes readability much more difficult which may put off some users. This could easily be corrected by simply using a more standard left aligned layout. The site also does not use a consistent layout with some pages having text to the left of the page and some having text to the right of the page. This may be quite confusing to some users so I would certainly try to use the same layout for each page of the site for my portfolio.

This site is quite similar to the Mark Till portfolio as they both contain very few links which makes navigation around the site relatively easy. The major difference however is that the Kat Palmer portfolio does not have a contact page. She does include a reference to her email address on the homepage but I feel that the portfolio would be much more effective if she included a page with all of her contact information on. The major aspect that impressed me with Mark Till’s portfolio was his use of visual cues to influence the users to click on the most important information. Kat Palmer’s portfolio however doesn’t really make good use of this and I feel that she should give much more emphasis on things such as contact details and accessing her CV. She does mention that if somebody needed a CV they would have to email her. I think it would be much more appropriate to upload this to her site and simply provide a link to it.

The portfolio section of the site contains quite a lot of work ranging from websites through to photographs. This is a real benefit to as it shows that Kat has a wide range of skills and is not simply focused on one area. I do feel however that there is too much work on the page and a few examples of her best work would be far more appropriate. The about me section of the site does contain quite a lot of information such as her interests and skills. Sections such as this would be included in a CV so I think that this page would be much more appropriate if it simply contained an online CV.

Overall I feel that the site is effective at displaying all of the skills and experience that Kat has developed in web design. However there are quite a few problems with the site making it look quite unprofessional such as centering and text and inconsistent layout.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Portfolio Delivery Requirements

XHTML 1.0 Strict
This will be used to write the markup of the page. This will also be validated to make sure that the language is correct.

CSS 2.1
This will be used to give a style to the different elements on the page and create the layout for the page. This will also be validated to make sure the language is correct.

This will be used via Marcromedia Dreamweaver 8 to upload the website to my hosting account.

PHP 4 and MySQL 5.0.22
These will be used to create a simple contact form on the site and also to create the restricted area of the portfolio that will require a password to gain entry.

Along with the contact form I will also provide an email address so I will need SMTP for this.

Image Optimization Software
This will be via Adobe Photoshop CS2 where I will optimize any images used to ensure a fair balance between image quality and file size.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Portfolio Target Audience

Target Audience #1 - Educationalists
Paula is a 59 year old female working as an External Examiner for Edexcel. She works part time earning approximately £7,000 per year. She is an intermediate web user who goes online every other day and accesses the internet from home. Paula enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and going to the gym to keep fit. She uses Internet Explorer 6 as a web browser and has a 2MB broadband connection. Her monitor is 15inch and has an 800 x 600 screen resolution. She mainly goes online to check her emails and to do online clothes shopping. Her favourite websites are Monsoon and Next where she spends roughly £60 per month on new clothes.

Target Audience #2 - Industry Professionals
Patrick is a 42 year old male who works as a Technical Operations Manager for a Web Design company based in Doncaster. He earns £40,000 per year and has a company car. He is an advanced web user who accesses the internet every day except weekends for approximately 8 hours. He enjoys keeping up to date with the latest technologies in the interactive media industry and regularly attends courses to further his knowledge. He is a keen sports fan and has been a season ticket holder at Doncaster Rovers F.C. for over 20 years. He enjoys spending time with his wife and children and regularly takes them on days out. Patrick mainly accesses the internet from work and uses Firefox 2.0 as a web browser. He has an 8mb wireless connection and uses a 17inch widescreen monitor with screen resolution set at 1024 x 768. Patrick accesses the internet to catch up with the news headlines on BBC, sport headlines on Sky Sports and to order books and DVDs online at HMV. He regularly spends around £100 per month shopping online.

Target Audience #3 - Potential Clients
Julie is a 32 year old female who is a self employed mobile Beauty Therapist. She has just started up her business and requires a website to market the services and prices of her company. As her business is in its infancy she does not have a set wage and simply takes home whatever profit is left after paying her overheads. She is a novice web user who has recently bought a PC and is beginning to learn the basics to enable her to go online and check her emails. Once she has gained more experience she will go online once a week. Julie enjoys going shopping on a weekend and meeting her friends for a drink on a Saturday night. She will access the internet from home using Internet Explorer 7 as a web browser and will have a 2MB broadband connection. She will use a 17inch monitor set to a 1024 x 768 screen resolution. She currently doesn’t shop online but when she becomes confident in using the internet she will spend around £50 per month on cosmetics at Boots.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Website Goals - Portfolio Site

To validate the website using XHTML 1.0 Strict and CSS 2.1
I will validate the site because if the coding is not valid the browser that the site is being viewed in will correct any errors itself. The correction of the errors varies quite a lot between browsers so to achieve better consistency between browsers I will ensure that they are validated.

This could be measured by using the HTML and CSS validators on the W3C website.

To meet priority 1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
I want to meet priority 1 of the checklist because this enables a wider range of users to access the information. Features such as “providing a text equivalent for every non-text element” and “organising documents so they may be read without style sheets” make the site much more accessible.

I would be able to measure this goal by simply checking if I had managed to meet each checkpoint.

To have the site usability tested by 5 of my peers and 5 people outside of college
This will enable me to gather vital information on the functionality and the overall impression of the site. I feel that it is important to have it tested to have it tested by both groups of people to reach as wide range of people as possible.

This will be measured by collecting the results from each person tested.

To display my technical expertise by using a variety of technologies
I would like to use XHTML, CSS and PHP in the creation of the website. In addition to the work on the portfolio site this should also help to showcase the skills that I have learnt over the duration of the course. This will also provide a chance to gather further experience with PHP which will be advantageous for the future.

This will be measured by effectively using XHTML, CSS and PHP in the portfolio.