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Unit #2: Print-to-Web Conversion Project

Due Date: Monday, October 22, 2012

Submission Name: URL for your finished site


For this assignment, you will convert a complex printed document into a website using a content management system. You may select a document on your own and submit it for approval, or you may use one of the “default” documents that we will use in our class workshops: the Virginia Tech Staff Handbook or the Virginia Tech Student-Athlete Handbook. Likewise, you may choose to work with whatever content management system you prefer, but our in-class workshops will focus on WordPress, which is currently the most popular CMS in the world and available for free at Virginia Tech.

Assignment Details

In order to gain experience working with a CMS, you will need to select a printed document that is substantive enough to be converted into a complex website with sections/subsections, menus, sidebars, etc. Generally speaking, your finished site should contain at least 20 pages, though the exact number may vary, depending on the length of your original document. If your original document is very long (such as the Student-Athlete Handbook), you do not need to use all of the text in your project. In such cases, you should carefully select key portions of the text for use on your website.

Your individual work process may vary from that of your classmates, but generally speaking, you should follows these steps to complete your project:

  1. Select a document.
  2. Select (and, if necessary, install) a content management system.
  3. Convert your printed document to HTML.
  4. Select a theme.
  5. Customize the theme.
  6. Extend the functionality of your site using plugins.

We will discuss each of these steps in greater detail during the coming weeks, and we will conduct in-class workshops to give you experiences with all of tasks you will need to complete to succeed on this assignment.

Primary Deliverables

The most important deliverable for this assignment is the finished website itself, which must be “live” on the web and publicly accessible to the world. Although your project will be evaluated primarily on the strength of your final website, you may submit mockups, screenshots of your early drafts, and/or alternate designs, if these items will help you explain your work process and justify the choices you have made. If you choose to work with a printed text other than one of the default documents, you should submit a copy of the original text at the conclusion of the project.

Memo of Transmittal

When you are finished with your project, you will write a one-page (300-500 words) memo of transmittal to me that analyzes and justifies your work on this assignment. For example, you may want to discuss your choice of themes, plugins, images, and color schemes, as well as the rationale behind your information architecture and overall site design. Your memo should also include a link to your finished site. When your memo is complete, upload it to Google Docs, give it an appropriate name (e.g., “Quinn Warnick 4814 Unit 2 Memo”) and share it with me (email hidden; JavaScript is required), making sure to give me editing privileges.

Evaluation Criteria

Your grade on this assignment will be determined by your performance on the following criteria:

  • Visual Appearance — Does your site effectively use colors, images, and typography to create a unified, aesthetically pleasing website? How thoroughly have you customized the original CMS theme you selected?
  • Information Architecture — Is your site well organized? Have you taken advantage of the affordances of hypertext to arrange your content into sections/subsections and categories/subcategories?
  • Usability — How easy is it to navigate your website? Have you customized your menus to improve usability? Have you provided adequate instructions and signposts for new visitors to the site?
  • Content Management — Have you taken advantage of the features of the CMS you have selected? Have you extended the functionality of the CMS using plugins or custom coding?
  • Markup — Have you selected a theme and plugins that produce clean, well-structured markup? Have you marked up the original text using logical, semantic tags? (Your WordPress theme might not validate, but the content you added to the site definitely should.)
  • Memo of Transmittal — How well does your memo explain and justify the decisions you made in completing this assignment? Is the memo structured logically? Does the memo adhere to the conventions of standard written English?
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."