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Web Design Assignments & Ideas
cleaning an oil spillAs outlined on the Grading & Expectations page, students in Mission 2015 will use three different tools to communicate their ideas: team and class wikis, 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 Seth Burgess, are available to review work and provide design insight throughout the semester. The Office of Education Innovation and Technology can answer questions about web communication via wiki's and will provide an introduction to their effective use early in the semester.

Class Wiki
The MIssion 2015 wiki, which contains a main community page and a host of "daughter" pages, including those representing each team, will serve as a repository for the research and brainstorming that different teams and their individual members are doing and will track class progress throughout the semester. As the semester progresses, general information, assigned readings, announcements, etc., will be posted on the main page. Team members can use their team wikis to share their work with each other, as well as contribute to one other's work. Each student should contribute to the team wiki to document their individual progress in the class, as well as share ideas and resources with their team members. As the transition from team-based research to class-based solution occurs, the class wiki will serve as a place for the students to share files, as well as comment and contribute to each other's work. The students will use this space to communally finalize the documents from which the Project Web Site will be created.

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.

grand canyonEach team is responsible for proposing one or more components of the final Mission 2015 design. By early November, each team must upload to the class wiki a draft version of their finished research and proposals. This work should be presented in considerable detail, and it will serve as an informational resource when the entire class decides on the final proposed plan for saving western water. These documents should have a solid, professional look and it should be informative to anyone who might read it from outside the Mission 2015 community. Again, information and ideas must be properly cited.

Project Web Site
One of the principle assignments for the semester is the development of a coherent, highly informative description of the final Mission 2015 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 26th. The Final Project Website will be housed in an Athena locker inside the Mission 2015 web space.

smokestack pollution 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 information, 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 your 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 about the principles of user-centered design here.

Your class web site should strive for universal usability so that the maximum number of people can get your message. Implicit in good design is simplicity, so that clarity, order, and confidence come through to the user. Try to strike a balance between text and graphics. Too much text is dense and hard to read; whereas too many graphics can create confusion and lack of focalpoint(s). I'm a big fan of the Web Style Guide. Several sections from that book are particularly useful for beginners. For example, read this short article on visual design to give you some ideas. Also, give this article on line width and page length a quick read. If you aren't familiar with the notions of design grids, I'd read this as well. If you want to be a bit more quantitative you can research eye-tracking studies to see how users actually look at web pages.

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?

Not everyone is a wizard of web design and we encourage each team to identify their best person early in the semester so that when it comes time to make the final website there is a small team that can work together.

Dreamweaver is the HTML editor and web page creation tool that is supported by MIT Information Services and Technology. IS&T has a site license for Dreamweaver, so you can request your own copy by filling out the Student request form.

Although there are a plethora of sites with "How tos" 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. CSS are nothing more than formatting rules. Think font-size, margin-width, fon-color and spacing. They are stored in a 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. Most web professionals use Adobe Photoshop® and Adobe ImageReady®. For example, when using a GIF file format (for text), do you really need all 256 colors or will 32 do most of what you want? 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.