Tuesday, May 13, 2008

End of the Road

This past year has been a very mixed one for me. I have learnt so much in the space of 9months I would struggle to fit it all into just one blog post. I have picked out the assignments that I feel I have learnt the most from and will explain where that assignment has helped me develop my skills into what they are now, and also explaining some difficulties along the way.

CSS Beauty
This was my first experience with CSS (that I didn’t use a template for) and anyone with website experience could tell by looking at my code that this website was built by a novice. We had to give an existing HTML document a distinctive style using a CSS style sheet.

I have looked at the code recently and I have made quite a basic, static, one page website very complicated. But I now realise that this was vitally important at the beginning of the year because it is important to learn these things as a novice so you can improve with each website.

Team Work 1 - Team Work 2
The team assignment was one of the biggest of the year and also one of the most important for two reasons, 1; it was a double award assignment so it was worth two grades and 2; it was for real clients in the real world, so if they weren’t happy with everything we might not have had a project to hand in.

I was nominated as project manager by Marc and Ben. I was reluctant to be the manager because I didn’t see myself in this role at the beginning of the assignment but I am glad I was made project manager in the end because it was one of the most rewards experiences looking back at it (even though I didn’t feel like it at the time).

Our group found two external clients that were both prepared to have a website designed and created by students. The first was a hairdressers in Pontefract and the second a playhouse/nursery in Normanton. They wanted static websites with a small number of pages which was perfect for this assignment.

Both clients were very different, the hairdresser was very talkative and welcoming and told us what she wanted and what se didn’t. The playhouse owner was hardly in when we went to talk to her about the website so we had to talk to her secretary who didn’t really want us there, this was very beneficial for our experience of dealing with clients, but did give us some headaches about the final website.

Overall I think I have learnt more from this assignment than any other on the course because it is real life experience, and that can never be a bad thing.

This assignment was the only assignment that was design for print and not web. But this was not all that straight forward because we had to design lots of ideas that could be adapted to suit any product. This was because we didn’t know what we were designing for until we had finished our design phase.

This was strange for me but one I really enjoyed. I found myself drawing whatever came into my head at the time so after a couple of weeks sketching I had over 100 ideas.

Once we had been told it was a CocaCola bottle we were designing for I decided on a coca cola city and adapted the buildings to curve along with the CocaCola trademark curve. I also wanted a different website to show off my design even though it was print work so I made the tile effect I had used into a frame to go around the design. I think this worked well and I think it is one of my best pieces of work on the course.

This assignment was the second part of iMe the first being this blog and the last being the presentation I will be giving over the next couple of days (15/05/08). PHP is a scripting code that allows a web designer to design with more dynamic content. I didn’t consider myself to be a strong website coder but I wanted to learn PHP because I had seen it in a lot of job adverts that were looking for web designers.

I designed quite a striking looking website that was really very easy to build. By doing this I could give a large amount of time to learning the PHP code that would make the site dynamic. I had an idea of a user coming to my site and finding the right car for their requirements. A user would have a small number of options to choose from and this would generate the most appropriate car and display an image of that car on the driveway.

My experience with PHP was one of a lot of head scratching and annoyance that you had to upload everything to the host server to test it. I always like knowing that when I change a normal HTML site I have got the original as kind of a backup saved to the server just in case anything goes wrong and I need to recover it.

After handing this assignment I realised that I can work with PHP and do the basics but I certainly don’t see myself as a PHP expert in my chosen career.

I like this assignment most out of all the second year and I think it showed in my final product. I think I am a design orientated website designer rather than a coder so this project allowed me to build a website that simply had to look good and make things easy to understand.

I would happily do this kind of task for a living, as I’m sure so many other people would. I think the fact I had used one very large stock photography image for the PHP assignment was the reason I decided not to use one as the main image of this site. This could have back fired on me but its is a decision I can look back on and say was the right one.

I think my final product is different but still easy to navigate and is a massive step forward in CSS/XHTML compared to the first project of the year. Everyone kept repeating to me that CSS would just seem to click in the second year and I think it has although I know I am still not using everything it is capable of I’m sure.

The last assignment of the year was something of an anticlimax. I went into this assignment full of confidence after just receiving my first distinction and I had recently had a successful job interview for a digital printers as a print designer. So I had high hopes that I could create something that would look good on my portfolio.

Half way through the assignment Steve told me I could use the images I wanted to on my website because they were copyrighted, which I knew but thought I could nudge around (stupidly). This meant I had to start the design phase again and thing of a new theme.

I thought of a weird sport theme and with time running out I decided to create something that I liked design wise. This is by far my most complex website I have created on the course. I have learnt some JavaScript but as I have mentioned before I am not the best coder so I am a little unsure as to why it works I just know it does.

First Blog of the year
Looking back at my first blog post of the year I have achieve most of the things I wanted too. I have more merits and distinctions than passes, I can edit and create CSS to work with an XHTML document and I have found a job in the design industry which is the ultimate goal for any student.

If I were to do the whole year again I don’t think I would want to do much differently because where I have made mistakes I have learnt from them so it has all been a worthwhile experience. I am really glad I decided to join the course two years ago and I have made some good friends along the way.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Final Portfolio Design

I have added the Homepage for the design on this weeks blog so people will get a better overall impression of the site. I was reluctant to add a banner because I didnt want anything to clash with the work on the site.

The image on the homepage will be more polished and less pixelated I have just edited this quickly to give the idea of what I will design.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Final Portfolio Screen Design

This is a development of idea 1 from the previous week. I have decided not to use a large image as a background purely because it might not suit everyone.

I have purposefully left the design as white as possible to illustrate a blank canvas because I want to show of my work and not my website. I have used a grey text so it appears softer and less harsh against the white background.

I’m not sure how to get the image gallery to work at the moment but this should be something useful to learn for the future.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Portfolio screen designs

Screen Design 1

Screen Design 2

Screen Design 3

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

iTunes Screen Designs

These are my three final ideas for the iTunes redesign and feedback would be appreciated.

Idea 1 -
This design would have album images on the lower half of the page, these are represented by the white boxes. At the bottom of the page there would be genres and the albums I would choose would relate to the genre below.

Idea 2 -
This is a design inspired the ipod. The circle at the top of the page would control the music just like on the ipod. The album/singles images to the left and right of the page would get bigger on rollover and they would link to that album.

Idea 3 -
This design was also inspired by the ipod but from the TV adverts more than the product itself. The links would dropdown to reveal more options and the sub pages would change colour to suit whatever genre it was.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Competitive analysis

A Website Design Business

This is a website design company in Liversedge, West Yorkshire. They offer a range of products from websites, to any kind of graphic design. The website at first glance looks very polished and professional. But on closer inspection the sites white font blurs with the dark grey background and the rounded edges create a lot of background noise.

The site uses quite a lot of flash and things often sparkle and change colour even if you don’t move the mouse. This is off putting and could distract a user. I can see why the developer has done this because they are trying to show what they can do but it is a little to much especially on every link. I would say this company is aiming for people who would want a mainly Flash website rather than a static XHTML one.

The portfolio of work is well presented but the links on the right aren’t really links in the way I expected. I expected the links to open up external website, not show up in the main window for you to click on again. It is only because I am investigating this site that I actually clicked on this image, I user may over look this and not get to see any of the work. Most of the websites the company says it has created is just an image or screenshot of the website. This means there is no real way to check to see if it is actually being used. This is the major let down of the site, as I think a potential client would want to have a good look at the sites they have produced in full working order.

The site is quite interactive and does invite you to click around the page. I think the colour scheme is a little dull and doesn’t suit what the website offers. It would remind me more of a funeral colour scheme if it wasn’t for the ocean image right in the centre of the page.

This website dose not validate XHTML 1.0 Transitional, it has 30 errors. This is not a good thing for a web design company to do because it is very bad practice. If a client paid for a site that wasn’t valid the next major web browser to come out may not display the code as it should which would mean a redesign, and more money, which would have an adverse effect on the company.

Overall I like the way the website is structured; the layout and how things work give it a real modern feel which gives the impression that they know what they are doing. I would improve the site by changing the colour scheme to something more inviting that would appeal to a wider audience. I would also add real links to the work I had produced especially if they were on the companies profesional web hosting as it advertises on the homepage.

A Website Design Student’s Portfolio

This is a website of a student who has just achieved a first class BA (Hons) Degree in 'Interactive Media Design'. He has got a range of work on his portfolio in the categories of Web, Print, Photography, 3D and Games.

The first impression you get from this site is that it was made by someone young who is trying to give his portfolio a cool/street look. I think he has done this well and the blue really works with the black textured background. I like this style but I know a lot of people may not because it is quite dark.

I think the about me page contains a little too much information. I think someone viewing the site would pay more attention to the portfolio of work rather than read a full page of text. Although having read the text it is quite interesting and relevant I think because of the quantity a client may just skim over it. This is not helped by a solid black background with white text which makes if hard to read for any length of time.

The work section of the portfolio is very clear and all the links are clearly marked with a healthy amount of room separating each of them. I like how all the images change to black and white on roll over because it lets you know that it is actually a link to another page. Again however this links the other page that is dark and will not be everyone’s style.

With every website there is a separate page with a description of the work you have clicked on. This is a good feature and lets people read the text if they are interested but also enlarges the image to a full page and gives you a launch site button if you want to see the site working.

Again as with the other site this website is not validate XHTML 1.0 Transitional even though he states in his “about me” section that he uses valid XHTML and CSS. An external client is not likely to validate the site like I have but it just shows that some people say one thing, but do another.

Overall this person obviously knows what he is doing and has got a good personal style in my opinion. I think his website is a little dark and wouldn’t suit everyone but even a novice could navigate through and see all the work with ease. I like this no nonsense approach to a portfolio.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Delivery Requirements

XHTML (Extensible HyperText Markup Language) 1.0 strict
This will allow me to build all the content of my portfolio. I will use this version because I believe it is the industry standard at this time. I will be validating at strict level because it means my code will be the cleanest possible which should make my portfolio future proof.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) 2.1
This will be used to give my portfolio a unique style. This seems to be the most up to date version that most browsers support and offers good features and accessibility.

PHP (Hypertext pre-processor) 4
I have recently been learning about PHP and most of the tutorials and the book I bought were on PHP 4. I will use PHP to create a feedback form and any dynamic content on my portfolio.

MySQL version 5.0.22
This version of MySQL is the one which my host server supports. I will use a database to work with PHP 4, so I can create a section where all my feedback can be easily accessed rather than the feedback going to my email inbox.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
This is used to upload files onto the host server. I will use Dreamweavers FTP facility for this.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)
I will add my email address to my portfolio so visitors can contact me and it looks more professional if SMTP is used rather than in text.