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Web Design Assignments & Ideas

As outlined on the Grading & Expectations page, students in Mission 2010 will build three different web sites during the semester: Personal Web Sites, Team Web Sites, and a Final Project Web Site. There are some web and HTML resources listed near the bottom of this page. Our web guru, Dr. Robert Hildebrand, and TA, Katrina Cornell, are available to review work and provide design insight throughout the semester.

Personal Web Sites
Each of you must build and maintain a web-based annotated bibliography to document your research for Mission 2010. By the end of the Team Meeting on September 13th, you should know what your personal research responsibilities are. By class time on September 23rd, your personal web site should be completed and posted on the web server. The quality and content of this site will be used by the teaching staff to help establish the Individual Component of your final grade for 12.000.

An important part of research is proper documentation and attribution. When you present a fact, a graphic, or an opinion that is not your own on a web site, in a presentation slide, or in a paper, you MUST reference it properly. Correct referencing is not often part of a high-school curriculum, so you should familiarize yourself with the correct approach, Consult Chapter 10 of the online version of the Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing for a brief treatment of this subject. We will use the American Psychological Association (APA) citation style for this class.

Sites can be developed using any number of high-end programs, such as Dreamweaver®, Microsoft Word®, or Adobe GoLive®, but the simple tools available in Netscape Composer®, which comes bundled with the Netscape browser and is installed on many personal computers as well as MIT's Athena environment, should prove sufficient. A general overview of the web resources available to the MIT community are located here and specific instructions for uploading web sites to the Athena server are found here.

Team Web Site
Each team is responsible for proposing one or more components of the final Mission 2010 design. That work should be presented in considerable detail in the Team Web Sites, which will serve as an informational resource when the entire class decides on the final design. Each Team Wen Site should have a solid, professional look and it should be informative to anyone who might read it from outside the Mission 2010 community. Again, information and ideas must be properly cited.

Each team is expected to build a prototype Team Web Site by Friday, October 13th. It will be reviewed during the following week by members of the teaching staff and they will provide your team with feedback on the site. A finalized Team Web Site must be posted by Wednesday, November 1rst and should be referred to in the presentation of preliminary design ideas during class time that day. This site will be used by the teaching staff to help establish the Team Component of your final grade.

Project Web Site
One of the principle assignments for the semester is the development of a coherent, highly informative description of the final Mission 2010 solution in the form of a Project Web Site. While this site might contain links to the Team Web Sites, it should be an introductory page with at least ten links. This will be your opportunity to provide a succinct review of the principle components of your overall solution as well as describe your implementation strategy in detail.

One effective approach to constructing a good Project Web Site is for each team to designate a delegate to a Project Web Site Committee, which will meet regularly throughout November. The Final Project Web Site must be fully operational on November 22nd.

General Web Site Design Tips
There are so many really cool things to do on web pages that it is easy to get carried away; but it is important to realize that on a web site purported to provide ionformation, that too many special effects will dilute your message. Remember that the focus of your web sites is content, not flash! Try to create sites that are not cluttered but will let yoiur message come through loud and clear. Just as on your computer screen, the user interface should be easily understandable and intuitive, yet fade into the background so that it doesn't overpower the content. You can learn the principles of user-centered design here.

For the Team Web Site, one page should be devoted to a statement of team responsibilities. Others should focus on specific aspects of your solutions.

For the Project Web Site, it is not enough to list what will be done; rather, you must explain how you arrived at your final solutions. In other words, you must justify your decisions with facts and reasoning. In doing this you should clearly illustrate not just your final solutions, but the thought process that you followed. What alternative solutions did you consider and ultimately reject? Why did you reject them? What was the logic behind selecting certain alternatives? Who did you consult, and how did their opinions influence your decisions?

Building Web Pages with Composer is Netscape's tutorial for those unfamiliar with using Composer to construct web sites. Another tutorial for Composer is Web Page Construction Using Netscape's Composer 7.x. Ignore the school specific stuff as these are for Long Beach State students. Yet another Composer specific site is Easy Web Page Design with Netscape Composer.

Although there are a plethora of sites with "How to's" on writing HTML, I like W3 Schools, HTML Primer, and HTML Code Tutorial.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) really simplify web page design and are cached by browsers so they don't cause a huge time penalty after the intitial page loads. CSS are nothing more than formatting rules. Think font-size, margin-width, font-color and spacing. They are stored in a separate file, in your page header, or in-line. Again, there are thousands of sites that deal with CSS, but you might start with Open Sourcery, the W3 Consortium, and CSS Tutorial.

Graphics can be created in any graphics program, but for the web you must optimize them, because if your web site loads too slowly, people will leave. To optimize graphics for the web, most web professionals use Adobe Photoshop® and Adobe ImageReady®. A copy of a lite version may have come with your scanner. The idea in optimization is to get your graphic files as small as possible without severe degredation. For example, when using a GIF file format (for text), do you really need all 256 colors or will 32 display your graphic just fine? There's a big difference in file size. Also, be sure to experiment with photos and jpeg (jpg) settings as often a 4 or 5 quality will work just fine and be much smaller. Check out the Web Design Groups' Image Use on the Web and also this tutorial on jpeg. If you run into a graphics file with a tag that you are not familiar with, go check the Graphics File Format page.