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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
12 comments on “Week 11: Wireframes and More Tubes
  1. Kayla Vanderlyn says:

    That eventing in Washington, staying at my sister’s house, I told my eight-year-old niece about what I’d seen at Equinix. She’s an instant-messaging, YouTube-watching, video-chatting, iPad-wiping member of her generation: a digital native. And like most eight-year-olds, she’s difficult to impress. “I saw the Internet!” I told her. “Or at least a significant piece of it.” I was accustomed to adults furrowing their brows at statements like this, skeptical that the Internet’s physical reality could ever be so legible. But she didn’t think it was strange at all. If you believe the Internet is magic, then it’s hard to grap it’s physical reality. But if, like her, you’ve never known a world without it, why shouldn’t the Internet really bou out there, something you could touch?

    I found this section particularly interesting, as it really defines the crux of the problem that “digital immigrants” have with the Internet and much modern computer technology in general. After having read Marc Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 2: Do They Really Think Differently?” the statement really resonates. While people who didn’t touch computers until their adult lives don’t understand how computers work and accept them as “magic”, younger generations have always known the technology and just consider it an integral part of everyday life.

  2. Samantha says:

    “An Equinix building is designed for machines, but the customer is a person, and a particular kind of person at that. Accordingly, an Equinix data center is designed to look the way a data center should look, only more so: like something out of The Matrix. ‘If you brought a sophisticated customer into the data center and they saw how clean and pretty the place looked–and slick and cyberrific and awesome–it closed deals,’ said Adelson” (95).

    I found this passage to be particularly interesting. Throughout the book, Blum makes it a point to show us that the Internet isn’t anything more than wires and relationships (80). Yet the understanding of this is completely lost on a customer; all they want to see is how “cyberrific” Equinix is, and the company plays it up for them. It’s no wonder that we believe the Internet is something celestial.

  3. Tony says:

    A few years later, one particularly talented cable layer named John Pedro would earn US patent 6,515,224 for his technique: a “cascading cable tray system” with “pre-fabricated support structure.”

    It seems surprising, and frankly a bit ridiculous in my opinion, that a cable-laying technique could be patented. How revolutionary was this technique? How many concepts are borrowed from this technique by other cable-layers? Are there people who check out other centers to make sure that nobody is infringing on this patent by laying their cables in a too-similar way? Am I thinking way too hard about this, or does patent law really seem quite nonsensical sometimes?

  4. Ethan says:

    “Perhaps more than any other technology in history, the Internet has made distance less relevant–it’s made the world smaller, as the saying goes. As the MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle describes, “A ‘place’ used to comprise a physical space and the people within it.” But the ubiquity of the internet makes that no longer true. “What is a place if those who are physically present have their attention on the absent?” she wonders.”
    -Tubes, p70-71

  5. Rachel says:

    ‘The Internet is more than old wine in new bottles; now we can always be elsewhere.’ We feel the consequences of this every day–the disconnection that comes as a consequence of connections, as if in a zero-sum game.

    I thought this was really insightful. Because of this new generation of internet users, there is much more of an immersion of the internet, in which it is more of an altered reality. It is as if we are always connected, yet in reality, those connections are internet-based.

    • Shelby Ward says:

      In the beginning of our reading for today Blum mentions Sherry Turkle, which some of us have read her book Alone Together in another class. She talks a lot about how we are always connected now, that we have made a “second life” for ourselves, this virtual self that we have downloaded online. She questions whether these connections are “authentic” or not. Because they seem to be connecting us to the place that is not “real,” and it affects the interactions we have with people in our lives. But Blum is giving us a completely different side to think about these virtual selves, because it grounds the internet back into the physical realm.

  6. Kyle says:

    We passed the narrow room that stores the batteries that instantly provide backup power if the utility lines should fail. They were stacked up to the ceiling on both sides like drawers in a morgue.

    Blum, Andrew (2012-05-29). Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet (p. 101). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

    Interesting analogy. I’m having a bit of trouble understanding exactly what he’s implying? Is it a play on the inanimate and cold nature of the machinery? Am I reading into this far too much?

  7. Mary Kate says:

    “Today, Ashburn, Virginia, is a small town that Internet people think
    of as a giant city. They toss around ‘Ashburn’ as if it were London or
    Tokyo, and often in the same sentence.”

    I couldn’t help but choose this as my quote to comment on. This shows how very far from an Internet person I am and also how very close to the Internet I reside. Ashburn, Virginia is my hometown. Waxpool Road is unexaggeratedly in my backyard. It was very interesting to learn that my home is of such grand importance in the world of the Internet, being compared to such extreme commercial cities like Japan and London. Now I feel like bragging about living in the same town as the country’s most important Internet buildings. And I used to think Ashburn was so boring.

  8. Brittany says:

    “We are always somewhere on the planet, but we rarely feel that location in a profound way. That’s why we climb mountains or walk across bridges: for the temporary surety of being at a specific place on the map. But this place (where the internet meets the earth) happened to be hidden.”

    This intrigues me. I have never thought there was a place where the Internet began. It is crazy to think that cables and coils attached to ladder frames connect the Internet to earth. You would think that this location would be a place everyone would be curious about considering it is because of this place that we all can keep in close contact with each other even when we are so far apart.

  9. Jessica Pittman says:

    “From out here, the Internet appears to have no texture, no grain; with rare exceptions, there’s no “weather”–conditions don’t change day to day. Yet it looked at from within, the Internet is handmade, one link at a time. And it’s always expanding. The constant growth of Internet traffic requires the constant growth of the Internet itself…”

    Blum presents us with two different perspectives of the Internet; we can either view the Internet from “out here” or from “within”. Each perspective offers an entirely different understanding of the Internet. Viewing it from the outside, the Internet appears to be a unchanging, constant from day to day. However, examining the inner workings of the Internet, we see that it is the users that are “hand-making” it, and expanding it constantly.

  10. David says:

    “But the largest Internet exchanges are different beasts altogether. Their participants aren’t public-spirited groups of network engineers, but the Internet’s biggest players globally. They are large, professional operations, with marketing departments and teams of engineers” (111).

    Reading this section, from chapter four, really opened my eyes into the business behind the Internet. As a user it is hard to see the Internet as anything but dollar signs $$$. However, I never thought about the business behind the businesses, the Internet itself. The manufactures, software developers and administrators are making a living off of the on going war of Internet service and its costs.

  11. Juliane says:

    “In order to be proficient in Internet technology at this time, you
    kind of have to be weird.” – Adelson pg 74

    Although this is short, it just clicked for me. I don’t know anyone who deals with the internet that isn’t a little strange, but I didn’t think it was a job requirement. The internet requires unique minds to work on it and create new things. So this got me thinking about the different people who work with computers and what exactly makes them weird. I know that I’m personally a little strange, and I love computers.

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."