Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Process Report - Cohort website


n      Background for your work in this semester:

In order to prove our understanding and abilities connected with designing and production of media artefacts we were given the assignment to develop a Cohort Website which would represent our year group.

This task meant an enormous challenge for me, because I had to make great efforts to suit the expectations. If one looks at the First Year’s group, one can see that we are very ambivalent cohort, we come from different parts of the world. (United Kingdom, Japan, China and Hungary) As a result, we gained different experiences and knowledge in the past, have different backgrounds and qualifications. Whilst some of us are very adept in softwares, are already working at a firm; others are just getting the hang of it.
When I applied for this course, I already had some experience in designing, because I designed a book cover within the confines of a competition, although it was hand drawn only. In addition, I also had some technical knowledge. I could use two softwares called PhotoFiltre and IP Plus ( which are believed to be the bases of Adobe Photoshop); furthermore I studied HTML back home at my previous university.
Unconventionally, this project meant still a challenge, it added up to the fact that I had a few months to learn to use not one, but several softwares. In this way in semester one I had the opportunity to acquire the basic knowledge needed to handle Adobe softwares. (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and Dreamweaver)

 Another advantage of this project was it helped us to develop a group identity and ethos which will be essential at our workplace in the future.


                     II    Project objectives
n      The clear objectives set for the different projects and your understanding of them

In order to underpin our understanding and development of the core practices connected with the design and production of media artefacts we were asked to develop a Cohort Website that will become the online identity for the specific cohort.

We were divided into four groups (Group 1: Chris, Alex and Josh; Group 2: Rika, Sammy, Becky; Group 3: Dan, Kevin and Lisa; Group 4: David, Orsi and Joe) to develop parallel solutions, four websites from different points of view. In the first semester we would do the designing and filling the site with content and in semester two the website would go live. After this process the student’s body would select the best one and place it onto the programme web server.
The development of this project consists of four stages:
1.      Outline Proposal as a presentation
2.      Written Proposal with site diagram
3.      Development of ideas
4.      Final Product with exemplar content

It is intended that the assignment closely mirrors that of industrial practice and that it will allow students to practice their learning gained through the semester 1 module.
The cohort website will continue in development to be made live in next semester.

After completing this task we will have experience in analysing, interpreting and following specifications or other briefs in order to develop appropriate design and technical solution. This assignment will also help us to expand our abilities to provide design work in appropriate formats so that it can be easily implemented. Through the developing of the Cohort Website we will demonstrate our understanding of the inter-relationship between content, design and technology.

        At first the objective of the project was not so clear to my group, D-Tech, due to some misunderstanding. We thought we should develop a website with a topic that interests us first years. The error was corrected quickly, though the design we imagined fitted this requirement too.

            The team’s aim was to have the design of the website completed by December in order to start working on the technical part after the Holidays.

The first step was to distribute the team roles, though it really happened subconsciously. Throughout the work we tried to be equal, share the work and divide it evenly.  Each of us did his/her individual research and then shared it with the rest of the group. We also had to learn how to work together as a group, which can be sometimes difficult, considering that we are all unique and have our personal problems, maybe illnesses. In this case we have to be patient with each other, we have to try and understand the other.
The second step was to determine the target audiences of our website.
The primary audience would be the future Digital Media students who could see through this project who we are, what we do and learn; and the firms, people working in the industry so they can have an image about our achievements and abilities.
The secondary audience would be us (who are currently studying at The University of Winchester) and the lecturers. There is a need for a website where we could discuss matters that interest us, have debates, upload things we find interesting and want to share with others, show our works, communicate with each other and of course to have fun!

            These two groups of audience raise the need of a login page first.  The people interested in the course and the firms could log in as a Guest, whereas we students and lecturers, who are the admins, would log in as a Member with a password.

            The D-Tech’s concept of the site was to design a happy, youthful, playful look which at the same time can be defined as professional as well.

The design looks as following:
The main page comes up (with the university’s and the group’s logo) where people have to log in as either Guest or Member. After this the Home page appears with a fading background where there is a drop down menu, further below the animated D-Tech logo, and under this the images of fifteen people, twelve students and three lecturers. At the top right corner there would be avatars of the three of us.
 (Please note: When we started the designing Ingrid Martin was teaching us, but now that she is not working with us, we have to make some changes and insert Paul Isaac’s, Helen Kent’s and John Salisbury’s picture.)
These pictures then, by clicking on them, would lead to the student’s profile containing his/her personal data and works. If the visitor chooses to click on one of the lecturer’s photos then it would show just the person’s personal data. The purpose of this is to show people how we work and what kind of inspirations and influences we get from our lecturers.

Additionally the site would have a calendar containing our timetable and important events. The goal of this would be to unfold the future students what we learn and do.

There would be also a so called Fun Zone where people could upload games, maybe ones they design themselves.

            Our cohort website would be updated all the time, so we could keep it always interesting and fun. The purpose of the project is not only to develop it for the people, but to make them coming back.

            To make the website more interesting, I came up with an idea that people could change the background and font colour. There would be four colour schemes to choose from: dark red and black, blue and white, silverish grey and white, orange and dark brown. Unfortunately, David later vote my idea down.


                III    Your Tasks and milestones
n      Your ability and understanding of time and resource management

The secondary goal of our project is to learn how to get along with each other within a group which will be very useful in the future when we start working for a company.

Team work can result wonderful achievements, though this requires commitment, communication, attention and compromise in case of making decisions.
As a coin has two sides, working in a team has advantages and disadvantages.

The advantage of it is that if one does not know something or hasn’t any idea, the others can help him/her out. For example in our team David is not so good in designing and matching colours, but he has a strong understanding of all kinds of softwares. Joe and myself are beginners in softwares, but we are very creative and have good idea and are willing to help if necessary. With this we can establish a balance within the team.

The disadvantage of team work is that every person is unique, so we have our own lives to lead, have our own problems and maybe illnesses. Because of this it is complicated to compose a timeline, make an appointment when everyone is available and meet up. At a workplace you do not have this problem, because people go to work and spend several hours together collaborating.
In our situation there are several influential factors: the tension on the subsurface at the beginning (lack of commitment and communication between members), the jobs of Joe and myself (we have a busy schedule), my moving and David’s migraine attacks, learning disabilities (there were occasions when we couldn’t work because he was feeling poorly, was unconscious for a whole week).

            The first milestone of our work was deciding to choose the fading background idea with the drop down menu, avatars at the top right corner and the images which lead to the student’s own profile.
At this point we haven’t decided the colours, but I was already thinking about the dark red background and black font version.
Next came the name of our group. We considered several names, but finally chose D-Tech, which can stand for many things (Design and Technology, Design Technology, Digital Technology). As soon as we had the name, we started working on our logo, first we wanted a symbol like the one of Mozilla Firefox, but then we opted for something more artistic.  (For images see the Appendices section)
            Our third milestone in the process was the log in page which was followed by the animated logo idea. My suggestion was to animate the D-Tech in 3D so it would rotate around its middle Y axe with 15 degree. David had a better recommendation, he suggested that each character should move and spin. We thought that was very creative and opted for it. It was also David’s idea the Fun Zone with the games.
             The content of the site would be mainly extracted from the Digital Media, though Debs suggested that we should come up with an original one.

            My task in the group was mainly to organise the work, get people working, help to sort out everyone’s task, design the look of the site with the others suggestions and do the logo (static version of it).


               IV    Achievements
n      Your ability to devise appropriate solutions that meet the design and technical requirements within the parameters of the brief
n      Your ability to understand and develop a collaborative and adaptable approach to your design practice

As I already mentioned it previously, after defining the roles we started our own individual research and every week we let the others know what we done so far. Because of our diverse biorhythms when we met, we just discussed the problems, assigned everyone’s task and started working on our own at home. When we finished these, we emailed it to the others or shown them.
We had no problems in decision making, we could easily get through our ideas with good points.

Right at the beginning our main focus was to devise appropriate solutions that meet the design and technical requirement within the parameters of the brief. We tried to make every element simple so it could be easily implemented and would be compatible with different browsers. Joe and myself came up with suggestions and David replied if they were realisable.
During our work it occurred that we were running around in circles because David misunderstood us and the result was completely different than we imagined it. This sometimes had an advantage, it gave us new inspiration, but at the final outcome I was disappointed. We agreed on the details and the result was entirely different.
Joe and myself had no way of checking up on him, in the end the lack of communication appeared again.
After the Holidays we will have to make more effort to develop our ideas and to finish the design and start working on the launch of the website.


                     V    Challenges
n      Your ability to adapt your knowledge to changing circumstances
n      That you have developed a broad understanding of the technical processes that can be used to realize a design

Everyone attending this programme has different background and qualification, which means some know more than others.

 The Clinics were useful, though it is just once a week and can’t cover everything. If I come across a problem while working at home I may not have time to wait a week for the answer.
I started watching online tutorials on Youtube and they are huge help, but again I may not get answers for all my questions.
I had no other choice than to sit down and start experimenting. The Learning Style Indicator showed that mine is kinaesthetic/ physical which means I learn through doing it, but I also like making notes to be sure.

            My big challenge during the process was the producing of the logo. Due to a false information I started doing it Adobe Photoshop by creating each character myself. I soon discovered it is almost impossible and later John Salisbury explained that it is a lot easier in Illustrator. I did the logo in Illustrator as well, but then decided the first one is more artistic and cool.


               VI    Your Role as a Team Member
n      The contribution offered to the team by your individual research
n      Your development and implementation of facilitation strategies needed to sustain team work
n      The ability to work autonomously with the group environment

As I mentioned it before the distribution of the team roles was subconscious, but it is as following: David - Team leader, Joe – Designer, content and market researcher, Orsi – Designer, organiser, researcher.

           If we consider my result in Belbin’s self perception inventory, it is very true.  I really am a shaper who is highly strung, outgoing, dynamic; is ready to challenge inertia, ineffectiveness, complacency or self deception; tends to be provocative, irritated and impatient.

My contribution to the team was the design, the team name and logo.
In the future I am planning to contribute more, so I have started reading a book about how the create a website.

           I think none of us have a problem working autonomously with the group environment, everyone did his/her task and researches.

Because at the Project Outcome there were interesting pieces of advice given to us we shall continue to refine our ideas; and we hope in a few weeks we will finish this stage and can concentrate on the technical side of the project.

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