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Week 15 and Finals Week: Wrapping Up the Client Project

The end of the semester is upon us, and this will be my final update to the class website. (Please try to hold your applause until you finish reading this post.) At this point, you should be conducting usability tests of the current draft of your site and sharing the results of your tests with your teammates.

Our last few class sessions will be structured to help you put the finishing touches on your site. Here’s how we’ll spend our time:

  • On Monday, I will hold team conferences with each team, so please be prepared to show me a complete draft of your site and the compiled, analyzed results of your usability tests. The rest of class will be dedicated workshop time for your team to make progress on Unit #3. (Plan wisely in order to use this time well!) I will be available to answer brief, specific questions related to your client project, but I won’t be able to spend a lot of time with each team during class, so if you need serious technical help with your site, please come see me on Monday during office hours (8:00-11:00 a.m.).
  • On Wednesday, we will briefly review the remainder of The Elements of Content Strategy, so please read pages 38–74 before you come to class. Afterwards, we will conduct a structured peer critique of your client project websites. Please come to class with a full, revised draft of your site that you can demonstrate for your classmates on one of the lab computers.
  • Your client project is due on Monday, December 17, at 10:05 a.m. For our final, we will meet in our regular classroom, where each of you will give us a tour of your website and briefly discuss the challenges you faced as you worked on the project. Each team should plan to present for approximately 10 minutes, and all members of your team should participate in the presentation. (The presentation itself will be not be graded, but think of this as an opportunity to justify the grade you want on Unit #3.) Before you come to the final, your finished site should be live on the web and your supporting files should be shared with me via Dropbox. When you come to the final, please bring your team’s memo of transmittal and your individually completed “team evaluation form,” which I will distribute in class during Week 15.

As always, if you have any questions about these items, please email me or come see me during my office hours. I’ll try to be in my office as much as I can for the next week, so let me know if you need to come by during a time other than my “official” office hours. Good luck wrapping things up!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 14: Making Sense of Usability Data; Content Strategy

Now that we’ve discussed the basics of usability testing and you’ve had the opportunity to watch and participate in a usability test, you should begin recruiting friends, family, and roommates to complete the usability protocol you developed with your teammates on Wednesday. (Reminder: If you haven’t sent me a copy of your team’s protocol, please do so ASAP!) Next week, we will turn our attention to revising your sites, applying the principles of content strategy as we go. Here’s a summary of where we’re headed:

  • On Monday, we will consider how to apply the results of your usability tests to a revised draft of your site. Before you come to class, please review at least two of the sample usability reports linked on the Resources page and take notes on how you can apply these examples to your Unit #3 project. If time allows, I will meet briefly with each team at the end of class, so please be ready to show me your Unit #3 site as it currently exists. Finally, for those of you taking Exam #2, the exam is due at the beginning of class. To submit your exam, please carefully follow the instructions contained at the top of the exam.
  • On Wednesday, we will begin discussing our final text, The Elements of Content Strategy, by Erin Kissane. Please read chapters 1 and 2 (pp. 1–37) before you come to class. In addition, you should complete your usability tests by the end of Wednesday, so you can aggregate your results and share your findings with your client. If your team needs an extension on this deadline (due to an unresponsive client or technical problem), please let me know. I’m willing to be a little flexible on this due date, since I would prefer that your usability tests include actual content that you plan to use on your site.

If you have any questions about the exam, or about our plans for Week 14, just let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you in class on Monday!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 13: Finishing Tubes, Starting Usability Testing, and Exam #2

I hope you are enjoying your Thanksgiving break! When we return next week, we will be in the home stretch of the semester, with only six class sessions remaining before finals week. We will need to use our time wisely to make sure that your client projects stay on track. Our in-class exercises will help us accomplish that goal, but your team will need to make solid progress outside of class, too. If you haven’t been meeting regularly as a team, that will need to change during Week 13. By this point, your team should have a solid first draft of your client site, so if you’re behind schedule on that task, now is the time to catch up.

Here’s a quick overview of the coming week:

  • On Monday, we will conclude our discussion of Tubes, so please read pages 227–68 before you come to class. In addition, please read “Into the Vault: The Operation to Rescue Manhattan’s Drowned Internet,” by Dante D’Orazio. (Be sure to watch the embedded video — it’s fascinating!) After we put Tubes to bed, we will jump into usability testing by watching a usability expert conduct a test, then conducting a usability test of our own. You don’t need to do anything specific to prepare for these exercises, but I recommend exploring the “Usability Basics” section of Usability.gov before you come to class.
  • On Wednesday, we will continue our discussion about usability testing and begin drafting the protocols that you will use to test your client site. To prepare for our in-class activities, please read “Super Easy Usability Testing,” by John S. Rhodes, and the “Planning the Project” and “Analyze Current Site” sections of Usability.gov. (Note that each section of Usability.gov contains multiple pages; use the sidebar navigation to work your way through the sections.) Please come to class on Wednesday ready to discuss these readings and put them into practice on your project. Your homework after class on Wednesday will be to complete your usability testing protocol and submit it to me via email.

Finally, a few words about our second exam: Because we have a limited number of class sessions left, I have decided to make this an open-book, open-note (but not open-classmate), take-home exam. In addition, the exam will be optional, which means that you only need to complete the exam if you are unhappy with your score on the first exam. If you are satisfied with your grade on that exam, I will simply duplicate that score for Exam #2. However, if you would like the opportunity to raise your exam grade, you can take home a copy of the exam at the end of class on Wednesday and submit it at the beginning of class on Monday, December 3. (Please note that while a take-home exam is likely to produce higher grades than an in-class exam, a higher grade on Exam #2 is not guaranteed.)

As always, if you have any questions about these plans, or if you want to meet to discuss your team’s progress on the client project, please let me know.

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 12: Getting Serious about the Client Project

Next week is our last week before Thanksgiving break, and I want to make sure all of you are on track with your client projects before the holiday. Hence, I have rearranged a few of the checkpoint due dates for Unit #3, with the primary difference being that we will postpone our usability testing until after Thanksgiving.

At this point, your team should have worked with your client to finalize the domain name and web hosting for this project. If you have not completed these tasks, please take care of them as soon as possible. Once you have worked out the logistics for hosting your site, you can focus on transforming your wireframes into an actual site. This might mean finding a WordPress theme that you can modify or starting with one of the static templates or frameworks linked under the “Templates” section of the Resources page. Your homework for the weekend is to begin creating the homepage for your site. Here’s how we’ll build on that homework in class:

  • On Monday, we will review how to upload and modify files using FTP and I will demonstrate how to install a content management system on a new hosting account. Before you come to class, your team should know which CMS, template, or framework you plan to use for Unit #3. (Again, refer to the Resources page for ideas.) I will reserve at least half of the class for you to work with your teammates, but please make sure that you come to class ready to use that time productively. (In other words, you should be coordinating your individual efforts and making some decisions before Monday’s class.)
  • On Wednesday, we will be back in Tubes for the first half of class, so please read chapters 5 and 6 (pages 157–226) before you come to class and leave a comment on this post that addresses a specific passage you’d like to discuss in class. (Last week’s posts were great! One small suggestion: be sure to list the page number for the passage you’re quoting.) During the other half of class, I will meet briefly with each team to discuss your progress on the client project, so be ready to show me what your site looks like and ask any questions that might help you make progress on your site.

Before you leave for Thanksgiving break (no later than Friday, November 16), someone from your team should send me the URL for the first draft of your site. I recognize that the site might be messy and/or incomplete, but you should have something live on the web by the end of Week 12. I will review your site over the break, and when we come back, we’ll be ready to conduct some usability tests to improve the functionality and appearance of your site.

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 11: Wireframes and More Tubes

When I got back from my conference, I was glad to discover that your initial client meetings had all gone so well. It sounds like everyone has started on the right foot, and I hope your interactions with your clients continue to go smoothly. From now until the end of the semester, we’ll be working our way through the Unit #3 project methodically, and next week we will focus on using wireframes to plan the layout of a site. Here’s how we’ll spend our time in class:

  • On Monday, we will spend most of class in a wireframing workshop. Before you come to class, please read “Sketching: the Visual Thinking Power Tool,” by Mike Rohde, and “Using Wireframes to Streamline Your Development Process,” by Eric Shafer. (See the “Wireframing Tools” section of the Resources page for more links.) Your homework for Monday is to come to class with at least two hand-drawn sketches of what you think your client site might look like. (Please do not complete this assignment with your teammates — part of our workshop will involve comparing the different approaches to your site.) In addition, I recommend getting a jump start on Wednesday’s reading assignment in Tubes.
  • The wireframes for your client site are due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, so your team needs to find some way to share them with me (PDF, URL, screenshots, etc.). At minimum, you should submit wireframes for two different pages (e.g., home page, blog page, contact page, image gallery), but if you have created additional wireframes, I would love to see those, too. In class, we will discuss chapters 3 and 4 of Tubes, so please read pages 69–156, then leave a comment on this post that points to a specific passage in the book you want to discuss, along with an explanation about why you think it’s interesting. (Leave your comment no later than Tuesday night; bonus points for connecting your comment to one or more of your classmates’ comments!)

If you have any questions about these plans, or if your team wants to meet with me to discuss your client project, just let me know.

Posted in Weekly Updates

Weeks 9 and 10: Diving in to the Client Project

As I’ve watched you create (and sometimes scrap and re-create) your Print-to-Web projects, I’ve been impressed with how far you’ve come in just a few weeks of working with WordPres. Many of your draft sites looked excellent during our peer review session yesterday, and I can’t wait to see your completed sites next week!

As you put the finishing touches on your project, remember that the difference between a good site and a great site lies in the details. When you’re done marking up your content, make sure you spend enough time customizing the typography, the color scheme, and the images connected to your theme. Think about menus, hyperlinks, and sidebar widgets, and how you can use those elements to improve the functionality of your site.

I will be traveling for part of next week, so I’m taking this chance to share our plans for the coming two weeks. You’ll be completing some of this work while I’m gone, but if you have any questions, I will be available by email. Here’s a quick overview of the next two weeks:

  • On Monday (10/20), your Unit #2 project is due before you come to class. Please review the assignment details before you submit your project to make sure you’ve followed the specific instructions for creating your site and writing your memo. In class, we will discuss the details of Unit #3, the Client Project, and we will finalize our team assignments for that project. I have sent an email to the class listserv with descriptions of the potential projects for Unit #3; please review those descriptions and send me an email by Sunday night with your client and teammate preferences.
  • On Wednesday (10/22), I will be at conference, so we will not meet as a full class. In place of class (either during our class session or at another convenient time), you should meet with your Unit #3 team to begin drafting your memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Client Project. Ideally, your client will join you for this meeting.
  • On Monday (10/29), you will submit your team’s MOU for the Client Project, then we will talk about working with clients. Before you come to class, please read this series of articles:
  • On Wednesday (10/31), we will shift gears and begin discussing Tubes, by Andrew Blum. Please read pages 1–67 and leave a comment on this post that contains a passage from Tubes that you want to discuss in class on Wednesday. (Leave your comment no later than Tuesday night, and if it’s relevant, connect your comment to one of your classmate’s comments.)

Whew — that was a long update! If you have any questions about these plans, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We’ll also have a chance in class on Monday to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on for the next few weeks.

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 8: Wrapping Up the Print-to-Web Conversion Project

As we near the end of Unit #2, I want to give you ample time to work out the kinks in your designs and get feedback from your peers to help you put the finishing touches on your WordPress sites. With that in mind, I have cleared the syllabus for Week 8 so you can make significant progress on Unit #2. Here’s how we’ll spend our time in class:

  • On Monday, each of you will meet with me individually for five minutes to present a draft of your Print-to-Web Conversion project. You will spend the rest of class time sharing WordPress resources that you have used to improve your Unit #2 projects. Please come to class with two things: (1) a complete draft of your site, including a customized theme, and (2) at least one tip or trick that you have discovered to improve your WordPress site.
  • On Wednesday, we will conduct a formal peer critique session for the Unit #2 project. By the time you come to class, your site should be nearly ready to submit for a grade. The goal for this critique session is to identify minor areas for improvement, so your site should not contain serious gaps in design, content, or functionality. We will also take some time on Wednesday to talk about Unit #3, the Client Project, which will begin in earnest during Week 9. If you have ideas for potential Unit #3 projects, you’ll have a chance to share them with the class on Wednesday.

As always, I’m happy to meet with you during my office hours (M 8-11, T 1-4) if you feel like you need extra help on this project. Feel free to drop by during those hours or email me if you’d like to reserve a specific time slot.

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 7: WordPress Workshop, Plus a Taste of Tables

Now that our first exam is behind us (hooray!), we can shift our focus back to the print-to-web conversion project. At this point, you should have added all of your content for Unit #2 to your WordPress site and you should be “cleaning up” the text as needed. (Translation: paragraph and line breaks should be accurate, there should be no extra spaces in your text, list items should be enclosed in the appropriate HTML tags, etc…) If you haven’t completed these tasks already, that’s your main homework assignment for this weekend. When we meet again on Monday, you should be done building your website so you can focus on styling it.

Here’s a quick overview of how we’ll spend our time in class:

  • On Monday, we will quickly review the results of the first exam, then we will spend the rest of class working in WordPress. Before you come to class, please complete the following tasks:
    1. Read “Technology vs. Content, or Why Teaching WordPress Is Frustrating,” by Tom Johnson.
    2. Make sure that you have experimented with at least three viable themes on your WordPress site and be ready to show these themes to your classmates.
    3. Install the Web Developer extension on your personal computer and bring that computer to class. (Bringing your laptop to class is going to be a good idea for the rest of Unit #2.)
  • Since we’ve been neck-deep in CSS for the past several weeks, I thought it only fair to spend some time on Wednesday with our greatly neglected friend: the table. Tables have fallen out of vogue in recent years, but you shouldn’t leave this class without understanding why they’re used less than they once were and, more importantly, how to use them effectively for displaying tabular data. Please read pages 337–40 in the HTML and CSS book and “Bring on the Tables,” by Roger Johansson, before you come to class. [Update: Here is the workshop file we will use in class.]

As you can see, both of our class sessions will be packed next week, so much of your work on the print-to-web conversion project will need to take place outside of class. If you have fallen behind on this project, or if you’re feeling confused at any point along the way, please come see me during office hours (M 8–11, T 1–4) to get some help on your project. If you’d like to reserve a specific time to meet with me, just drop me a line.

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 6: Information Architecture; WordPress Workshop; Exam #1

This update will be short and sweet, but feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our plans. Here’s a quick overview of how we’ll spend our time in class next week:

  • On Monday we continue our discussion about information architecture as it relates to your Unit #2 projects, then we will conduct a review session for our first exam. This review session will be as short or as long as you need it to be, so please come to class ready to ask any questions you have about the exam. Whatever time is leftover after our review will be spent in a WordPress theming workshop. Before you come to class, please read “Introduction to Information Architecture,” by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. In addition, you have two short homework assignments that need to be completed before you come to class on Monday:
    1. Create all of your pages in WordPress for the Unit #2 project. (Translation: copy and paste the text from your original document into a text editor, clean it up, then paste it into WordPress, breaking up the text into individual pages.)
    2. After you have created your pages, activate at least three different themes on your WordPress site (in your Dashboard go to Appearance > Themes) and experiment with the various settings for each theme. At the end of class on Monday, you will show your themes to your classmates and get their feedback about which theme would work best for your site.
  • On Wednesday we will have the first exam of the semester. Please arrive ready to spend the entire class period on the exam, which will consist of three sections: multiple choice questions, short responses (definitions and mini-essays), and a coding exercise. Everything we have covered during the first five weeks of class is fair game for the exam, so please review your notes, reread textbook chapters, and form study groups with your classmates to ensure that you are prepared.

As always, you can stop by my office (427 Shanks Hall) during office hours (Monday 8-11, Tuesday 1-4) if you need help with any of these tasks.

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 5: Unit #2; Introduction to Content Management Systems

We have used Unit #1 as a platform for applying the basic principles of HTML and CSS covered in our textbook. At this point, none of you know everything there is to know about web design (spoiler alert: you probably never will), but you should feel confident in your ability to look at HTML, CSS, and image files and understand how they fit together. Next week, we’ll take a giant leap forward as we learn how to automate and simplify many of the things we’ve been doing by hand for the past month. Here’s a breakdown of how we’ll get started:

  • Your Unit #1 project is due before you come to class on Monday. Please review the assignment details before you submit your project and don’t forget the final piece of the assignment: a one-page memo explaining and justifying the choices you made as worked on your résumé and landing page. In class, I will introduce Unit #2, the Print-to-Web Conversion Project, and we will discuss the difference between static websites and dynamic websites powered by content management systems. Before you come to class, please read “Why Do I Need a Content Management System?” and “Designing for Content Management Systems.”
  • On Wednesday, we will conduct a hands-on WordPress workshop, so you will need to create a user account and a new site on the Blogs@VT system. Your site should be up and running before you come to class, and you should take some time to get familiar with the WordPress dashboard, the difference between posts and pages, and the process of switching themes and activating plugins. If you run into problems or find yourself confused, I recommend watching the “WordPress Essential Training” on Lynda.com or visiting the WordPress Codex and WordPress Forums. (Bookmark these sites! They will be your best friends during Unit #2.) Of course, I’m available to help out during office hours, too, so come see me on Tuesday afternoon if you’re feeling lost.

If you want to talk about any of these plans, just let me know. Otherwise, have a great weekend!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 4: Advanced Typography, Navigation Systems, and Wrapping Up Unit #1

As I looked at the drafts of your landing pages and résumés in class yesterday, I was amazed by how far you’ve come in three short weeks. I hope you received some helpful feedback from your classmates, and I hope you’ll let me know what concepts you’re still struggling with. Depending on what you need, we can speed up, slow down, or take a few minor detours in the coming weeks.

Some of you are ready to put the finishing touches on your Unit #1 projects, while others may need to spend more time developing content for your landing pages, revising the structure of your résumés, or cleaning up your markup. (The W3C Validator is a harsh master!) This weekend is the time to take care of those tasks, so please don’t wait until Monday to continue working on your pages.

As I said in class yesterday, next week we will focus on taking your Unit #1 projects from good to great. Here’s how we’ll get there:

If you have any questions about these plans, or if you want to reserve a time to see me during office hours on Monday (8–11 a.m. in Shanks 427), let me know.

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 3: CSS Layout; Unit #1 Peer Critique

In class this week I shared some tips for using Twitter, but if Twitter hasn’t “clicked” for you yet, I recommend reviewing the following sites:

We’ll check in on our Twitter adventures on Monday, so here’s a mini assignment to complete this weekend: follow at least five new people who regularly tweet on a particular topic. For instance, if you want to know what’s going on in the world of web design, you should follow a few of the accounts listed on this page compiled by Tim Lockridge. If you want to use Twitter to keep up with campus news and events, follow a few of the accounts on the university’s list. Or use a hashtag search to find out who is regularly tweeting about your favorite sport, television show, band, etc. And remember, when you tweet about something related to our class, be sure to use the class hashtag: #engl4814

Our main focus during Week 3 will be finishing up the Landing Page and Online Résumé assignment, which is due on Monday, September 24. Here’s how we’ll get there:

  • Before you come to class on Monday, please read pages 176–198 and 300–336 in the HTML & CSS book. In class, we will discuss the “box model” and address any questions or problems you encountered as you read. As you complete your reading assignment, please apply the concepts from the book to your Unit #1 project files. By the time you come to class on Monday, you should have two completed HTML files and a CSS file that is starting to take shape.
  • On Wednesday, we will practice using CSS to position elements on a page and conduct a “debugging” workshop to help you prepare your Unit #1 files for submission. This means you need to come to class with finished versions of your project files. [Update: Your Unit #1 files should be live on your Filebox website before you come to class. For instance, here is my sample site.] In addition, please read pages 358–86 in the HTML & CSS book before you come to class. [Update: Here are the sample files for Wednesday's workshop.]

If you’re wondering how to focus your energies during the coming week, here are a few tips to ensure your success on Unit #1:

  • Two of the most basic aspects of style sheets are color and typography, so I’ll be looking for evidence that you know how to go beyond the default colors and fonts imposed by your browser.
  • We haven’t spent much time on CSS positioning (we’ll get there soon!), so I don’t expect to see incredibly complex page layouts. Your résumé doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective.
  • Along the same lines, remember that you’re creating a professional résumé designed to be seen by potential employers. Yes, you should inject some of your personality into the design, but a résumé is not the best place to take big risks with an outlandish design.
  • This first assignment is intended, in part, to see how well you’ve been paying attention to the readings in our textbook. Your code should be clean and well organized, and your HTML and CSS should validate.
  • The assignment sheet is very specific about what you should name your files and where they should be located. Please follow these directions to the letter.

Last but not least, I hope that all of you are practicing, not just reading, the material in our textbook. If you have fallen behind, please take some time this weekend to catch up. If you’ve tried applying the concepts in the book to your Unit #1 project and you’re still feeling lost, please come see me during office hours (Monday 8–11 or Tuesday 1-4).

Posted in Weekly Updates

Week 2: HTML and CSS Basics; Résumé Workshop

I think our first two class sessions went really well this week, even taking into account a few minor technical hiccoughs. Some of you who have experience building websites may find the next few class periods moving a little slower than you’d like, but trust me — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to push yourselves in the coming weeks. And if you feel like you aren’t being challenged enough, please come see me and we’ll find ways to make these introductory assignments valuable for you.

Next week, we will continue our tour of the basics of HTML and CSS, using the Landing Page and Online Résumé project to learn some of web design’s foundational concepts. Here’s how we’ll spend our time in class each day:

  • On Monday, we will finish applying basic HTML tags to your résumés, learn how to link two pages together, and set up our Virginia Tech Fileboxes. Before you come to class, please read pages 62–124 in the HTML & CSS book and finish converting your résumé from MS Word format into HTML format. (It’s OK if you’re not sure about which tags to use throughout your resume; just do your best to apply the concepts you’re reading for Monday’s homework.) Be sure to bring the HTML file containing your résumé to class.
  • On Wednesday, we will learn how to alter the visual appearance of your résumés using cascading style sheets (CSS). Your only homework for Thursday is to read pages 226–298 in the HTML & CSS book. A word of warning: these chapters mark the point at which the textbook begins to get a little more complicated, so you’ll need to spend enough time with each chapter to really understand the new concepts before you come to class each day. [Update: Please add an image to your index.html file before you come to class on Wednesday.]

By the end of Week 2, you should have a well-coded résumé and the makings of a well-styled résumé. If you’re doing all the reading and paying attention in class but still feeling lost, I recommend watching the tutorial videos titled “XHTML and HTML Essential Training” on Lynda.com. If you need additional help beyond that, please come see me during office hours. The material in this class will only get more complex as the semester progresses, so if things aren’t clicking for you, now is the time to address the problem.

We encountered some problems with TextEdit and Notepad in class on Wednesday, so we will avoid using those programs from here on out. Sometime this weekend, you should download and install one of the following programs on your own computer:

  • Komodo Edit (Available for Mac, Windows, and Linux — this is what we will use in the computer lab.)
  • TextWrangler (Mac only — my personal favorite.)
  • Notepad++ (Windows only — highly recommended by my former students who are Windows users.)

Finally, consider this one last reminder to sign up for Twitter, create a Dropbox account, and add a comment to last week’s post if you haven’t done so already.

If you have any questions about our plans for next week, please stop by my office hours on Monday morning (8-11 a.m. in 427 Shanks Hall), send me an email, or contact me on Twitter. Otherwise, I’ll see you in class on Monday!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Welcome to Writing for the Web!

Welcome to ENGL 4814: Writing for the Web. This website will function as the online headquarters for our class this semester. Each week, I will post an update to the website with details about coming week, deadline reminders, links to helpful resources, etc… I plan to use Virginia Tech’s Scholar site to record your grades, but otherwise, everything related to this course will be posted here. And given that this class is about writing for the web, it seems appropriate that you should help me build this website as the semester progresses. (We’ll talk more about that goal soon.)

A bit about me: This is my first semester at Virginia Tech, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. My research focuses on how people use rhetoric in online environments, and all of the classes I teach have something to do with technology. I have been building websites since 1999, and I do some web consulting for small businesses and nonprofit groups that need help getting (or getting up to date) online. When I’m not staring at a computer screen, I love to cook, read, and spend time with my wife, a brilliant freelance writer, and our two daughters.

After I gather your input in class on Tuesday, I will finalize the syllabus and add it to the website before our next class. In the meantime, please complete the following tasks before you come to class on Thursday:

  • Read pages 1–60 in the HTML & CSS book, and come to class with any questions you have about the reading.
  • Create a Twitter account, if you don’t have one already. (We’ll talk about using Twitter in the coming weeks, but for now, you just need to create an account, add a photo, and customize your profile.)
  • Create a Dropbox account, if you don’t have one already. (Again, we’ll talk about how to use Dropbox effectively as the semester progresses.)
  • Bring an electronic copy of your current résumé to class on Thursday.

Finally, a quick note about this website. Throughout the semester, we’ll be holding class discussions on this website. To help you get comfortable with that process, please add a comment to this post that introduces yourself, links to your Twitter profile, and answers the following question: What is one specific thing you want to learn to do in ENGL 4814? Before you post, a couple of warnings: (1) Your classmates will see what you write, so don’t include anything intended just for me. (2) This website is public, so we will stick to using first names only. Also, please be sure to use the same email address every time you post to the class website. Once I “approve” your first comment on the site, you will be able to post comments for the rest of the semester without waiting for me to approve them.

Posted in Weekly Updates
Where am I?
This is the class website for English 4814: Writing for the Web, taught by Quinn Warnick at Virginia Tech in fall 2012.
Worthwhile Reading
The links below are the most recent additions to my collection of bookmarks that are relevant to this course. You can find a complete list of ENGL 4814 bookmarks on Pinboard.

  • CodePen
    Awesome browser-based tool for experimenting with HTML, CSS, and Javascript.
  • What Constitutes Good and Bad Web Design?
    NY Times: "Shoddy Web site design is a curse of modern life. The more dependent we have become on the Internet for information, the likelier we are to suffer from its design deficiencies. Bad design can be infuriating, inconvenient or damaging in any field. But it is especially frustrating in areas like this where many of us find the technology so inscrutable that we tend to blame ourselves for being baffled, because we feel unable to judge whether the design is at fault."
  • wireframe.cc
    Free, minimalist wireframing tool, with templates for desktop, tablet, and phone.
  • Yes, learn basic programming
    Derek Sivers thinks everyone should learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript: "If you heard someone say, 'I have this idea for a song. But I’m not musical, so I need to find someone who will write, perform, and record it for me.' - you’d probably advise them to just take some time to sit down with a guitar or piano and learn enough to turn their ideas into reality."
  • CSS Floats 101
    Another great article from Noah Stokes in A List Apart. This one focuses specifically on one of the trickiest parts of CSS for beginners to master: the float property.
  • CSS Positioning 101
    Noah Stokes's A List Apart article is a great starting point for getting better at CSS positioning. Complete with several examples.
  • Modular Scale
    Handy tool for improving typography on modern, responsive websites. (The linked articles on this page are important, too.)
  • Interactive Guide to Blog Typography
    Great tutorial for improving typography on any website, not just a blog.
  • The Basement
    Great photo essay by Cabel Sasser: "And eventually, you crawl behind a corner, and discover a bundle of conduit. Conduit for every major internet carrier you’ve ever heard of. Oh, right. You had almost forgotten. This building, this basement, is the major internet hub for the entire region."
  • Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
    Beautiful interface for this NY Times article. Perfect integration of video, images, and text.
  • Service Learning Survey
    Students: If you worked with a client from the VT Engage program, please take a few minutes to provide the program with some feedback about your experience.
  • SPOT Survey - Fall 2012
    Students: If you haven't completed the SPOT evaluation for this course, please do so during class on Wednesday. I take this feedback very seriously, and I use it to revise my classes each semester, so please be specific about the aspects of the course (and my teaching) that you found successful and unsuccessful.
  • Standards, not Prescriptions
    Nathan C. Ford: "For standardization to truly continue making the web a more stable place, we do not need more anticipatory specifications, we need solutions. Lots of them. Dumb ones, fat ones, smart ones, skinny ones. Let us embrace them all then watch them fight it out in the field. When the strongest emerge, we can adopt them into our specs and wait for the next batch of victors."
  • Into the vault: the operation to rescue Manhattan's drowned internet
    Dante D'Orazio, writing for the Verge: "Hurricane Sandy's storm surge flooded Verizon's downtown office, rendering miles of copper wiring useless."
  • Responsive Design Testing
    Great little tool for seeing what your website looks like at a variety of screen resolutions.
  • Having a Mobile Strategy is Like Having a Laptop Strategy 20 Years Ago
    John Steinberg: "I do not want to download your app. I just want to read the content on the mobile web and possibly share it if I’m engaged. The constant knee-jerk interstitialing of full-screen app download messages every time I load sites is beyond frustrating. Many site owners seems convinced that this frustration, which no doubt dampens the velocity and volume of content sharing, will convert in loyal downloading app users."
  • Google Data Centers
    Photos, video, and history of Google's physical facilities. Obviously one-sided, but interesting nonetheless.
  • Google Throws Open Doors to Its Top-Secret Data Center
    Steven Levy, in Wired: "This is what makes Google Google: its physical network, its thousands of fiber miles, and those many thousands of servers that, in aggregate, add up to the mother of all clouds."
  • Guidelines, Tools and Resources For Web Wireframing
    A nice list of resources about wireframing.
  • Save For Later
    Fascinating report on a Mozilla UX project by Brian Groudan: "All browsers support two functions: searching and revisiting. My research questions whether constructs like bookmarks really are the right model to support revisiting. I worked closely with Mozilla user experience researchers and designers to rethink how Firefox can better offer 'save for later' in the browser."