Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Progression Project - Web Design and authoring

This was to showcase what we had learned at the end of our level 4 study (year 1).  The brief was to design and build a web site using Illustrator and Flash.  Although this was our end of year project, we were actually introduced to Flash in this project so perhaps not the best way to display our skills as learned over the year.

I don't have a scanned version of the research portfolio... must get that back from Uni!

We also had to submit a reflective report, which I have posted below.

Final Marks: 71 = First

Reflective report

I started writing this report having come away from my new assignment brief, I may have burned a fair few more calories than usual in that my heart was pounding through most of it.  I was the nearest to an anxiety attack that I have been in a long time. 

My problem is not the subject, it is not the marking scheme, it is the fact that we have 7 weeks to complete the assignment (as all modules have been) this coinciding with 7 week countdown to end of school year at work, and countdown to my wedding, that I am organising myself, at my parents half built property! 

My main fear was that the main thing I pulled from the opening presentation was that I would be a group project.  Working in a group is not a problem to me.  Indeed I look forward to sharing ideas with fellow students, and getting to know my peers on a more personal level, but having sat down with my diary and personal organiser the previous evening, syncing all meetings and dates and commitments, I already know that there is not one single day between now and the 6th August, when I do not have to meet someone or build, move or buy something.  Finding time to schedule in meetings, or travel to meetings with potential team members would be, if not a possibility, certainly would stretch me.

I am not beyond being challenged, and am more than used to juggling my time.  I work full time in a school, study this degree, run a photography business, a home and 3 websites.  I am used to not having much sleep because my mind is buzzing with ideas for all aspects of my life.  I could just do without inviting additional responsibilities and commitments on this occasion, in the run up to my wedding.  I want to be fit, beautiful and as stress free as possible when I ‘walk up the aisle’.

Having aired my fears, and discussing with my initial team choice, and personal tutor, I have decided at this point to embark on an individual project.  Iain, my personal tutor, confirmed that I would not receive negative marks for not developing team skills.  During this project I should still be able to demonstrate organising, planning and negotiation skills through my action plans and dealings with the client.

I have two options at this initial stage.  An existing client, Phil Westwood, contacted me recently asking for a DVD of his band’s live gig to be cut up in to small videos, to be uploaded to youtube, and to the website that I have designed, and manage for him.  Phil also works for janitorial services company JSL, and his boss is after a holding page, Phil asked me if I could assist.  Of course in my gung-ho way I just took the invitation, without giving much thought to the rapidly encroaching wedding.  The nature of this progression project gives me the opportunity to kill three birds with one stone.  I can work on these two job’s for Phil and his boss, at the same time as completing the final university assignment for 2010.

I arranged a meeting with Phil to obtain current branding and discuss their requirements in terms of design, function and possible re-branding.  Phil advised that the page was to be a holding page with a telephone that said ‘Website under construction’ to appear as though something bigger was coming, without any intention of pursuing this route, but still giving the client a contact number.

This of course would be very simple to produce but not terribly professional, if they wanted just a static page that held only the contact telephone number, a simple completed page could be created without suggestion of further items in the pipeline.

Phil was not able to provide me with the raw versions of the branding designs, simply a scanned version of the compliments slips.  Here it was apparent that the company offers two main services, janitorial services such as maintenance and service of machines, trading as Janitorial Services Limited (JSL Tameside Solutions) and a cleaning machine hire and sales service, Connect Cleaning Machines. 

The scanned documents were very poor resolution but I attempted to trace the two logos in illustrator.  I contacted the MD of the company, Derek Kelshaw to obtain high quality versions of the logos.  In return I received a copy of the original file.  This was not a bad thing for me in that Illustrator is my weak point at this stage, I have very little experience and knowledge of the software, so the challenge to create vectors of the two logos would only prove helpful to me by practicing using the software.  Although there is a slight niggle with one of the logos, they are fit for purpose and I am rather proud that I created them.

Through out the design process I studied existing websites for competitors within the market that JSL operates.  Most of these websites are created for online purchasing for a range of clients from household domestic buyers to business managers of large companies.  The websites look rather cluttered, almost displaying all their stock and services in the same place, which can be overwhelming for the first time visitor.  This is something I should like to avoid for the website I am creating for JSL.

The website should show from the outset that there are a number of services, and in that the client wants one website for both companies, it should be obvious to the customer, but simple to differentiate.

I have communicated with Derek through all stages, enquiring about design preferences, colour schemes, permission to use existing branding, contact details etc.  This has been through email as I work in the day, and it is recommended to keep a written copy of all directions and requirements for reference, and to protect you in the event that the client changes their mind or forgets the details of the brief.

Derek does not require new logos or a rebrand as the company is fairly new, so I have used the existing logos and taken the chosen colour scheme from the compliments slips that were presented in the initial stages.  I wanted express permission to reproduce the current logos, so enquired about the ownership of the designs, Derek advised that I have full permission to use all aspects of the branding as this is something they created in house.
My designs were drawn as thumbnail sketches in my sketch book and I mocked up my favourite design in illustrator to send to Derek for his thoughts.  He signed it off immediately which is most convenient for me, but in terms of professional development it perhaps would have been beneficial for me to have the initial design rejected, so I could go back to the drawing board or offer alternatives, and seek further advice about what he would want.  But in terms of managing my ridiculous diary, the instant approval was not only a relief but also satisfying as a designer.

The email address for the company is Derek’s business address, which I did not feel would be appropriate to display on the website as the main enquiry address, but at this stage JSL do not have an ‘info’ or ‘contact’ email address.  I gave Derek the option of displaying his email address or creating a contact box that site visitors can use to send e-enquiries without them actually seeing the email address.  This could be as an interim measure until a suitable email address was created.  Derek was happy with the idea for a contact box.

For promotion of the website and the business I created accounts on Twitter and Linkedin, and created a blog and link page.  Not only will this promote the business commercially, but this should help the website’s profile rise within search engines such as Google.  I also created an e-flyer to be emailed to clients, existing and potential, promoting the new website, and social networking profiles.

During this project I have not only been able to practice using Illustrator further, I have also been introduced to Flash animation with Dreamweaver.  This will be a very basic file as it is the first time I have ever used this software.

By importing the Illustrator documents into Dreamweaver I have been able to create a Flash animation file that displays exactly how the website will work.  I have created active buttons to move between pages and create colour changes.  This file will be used to demonstrate the functions and appearance of the website, during my meeting with Derek. 

The design for the home page lists the services offered by the two companies, servicing, sales, hire, repairs etc.  When the cursor is rolled over the list button, the button changes colour, when pressed down to access the page, the button will stay in this new colour, indicating to the site visitor, what page they have selected, or where they currently are.
By pressing the list button, the required page will appear. 

I will be developing the pages for each of the services, but until then, the page will state that it is under development, and will display the company office telephone number, and a link to the contact box for e-enquiries.

The Contact button in the list on the home pages, and sub pages, delivers the visitor the contact page.  This page displays the office telephone number and the aforementioned contact box.

My plan is to create a Flash version for the web as well as a HTML version that can be viewed on portable devices that are not Flash enabled, such as iphones.  I decided to do this as a website that I use on a daily basis, Weightwatchers, has a function within it’s site that cannot be viewed on my iphone.  I find this very inconvenient.  Imagining how a potential customer of JSL will operate, they may need to access the contact details remotely, having the facility to obtain a telephone number for emergency repairs from a handheld device may prove invaluable.

Evaluating my Progression Project I have been able to reflect on how I have performed in this task.  I knew from the outset that I would not be able to put in the same amount of time and effort that I have with every other subject.  As such the portfolio is not as big or interesting as others have been.  I have unlike previous projects, chosen a task or product that would not be time consuming, that would be fairly simple to produce and that would demonstrate my ability to manage time, working to client specifications and liaising with a client. 

Although I am happy with the design, I was not inspired by the subject or enamoured by the content.  In previous projects I have pursued a creative path, exploring artistic themes and immersing myself in the subject.  My studio at home has been decorated with materials to inspire me.  This subject has been more clinical and has not taken over the studio graphically.  I have still posted up designs on the easel, and I have pinned up my action plan and timescales on the walls to show where I am up to, but it has not been a creative little haven.  This project has felt a lot more like work than art, which is a good thing as I am not always going to be producing work that I would want to have on my wall.

During the project I have managed my time with a timetable, as I do for my day to day life.  With my life being in many places and with many activities to juggle, I find that the only way to manage time effectively is to plan it in.  From my fitness regime to commuting, wedding planning and building preparations and meal times, I have it all scheduled in.  This may vary on a week to week basis, for example, there is not a dress fitting every single week, and at half term I am not in school within the week, so I can fit a great deal more self study in.  However on this project, I have not had any leave from work, and the demands on my time for the building activities have increased as we are getting nearer to the big day.  As you will see from my timetable, my existence is a pretty pitiful one at the moment, with no social life and only 2 hours personal time scheduled each week.  Often this personal time is zapped up by additional emergency shopping trips crop up, or last minute demands occur, this seems to be happening more and more at the moment.  It is not fun.

Another useful tool that I have been using is the trusty old action plan.  I was introduced to these during my GNVQ Business days back in 1995, and they have assisted me in many projects over the last 15 years.  This document helps me create to do lists, with deadlines and notes.  It is useful as a reminder, but also shows exactly what has been achieved.  Sometimes I can forget just how much work I have done, this is a nice reminder that I actually have been as busy as I have felt.

The reflective process has affirmed my learning style.  In a previous job I would assess peoples learning styles using aptitude testing with the Myers Briggs Indicator.  This method is a psychometric test that assesses and measures certain preferences and how these affect peoples decision making as well as how it affects peoples views or perceptions.  Having taken the test I know that there are certain boundaries I must consciously push to gain more balance.  I have to set regular challenges so that I do not remain in my comfort zone, and stagnate.  But I also need to know when to say no to additional workloads, and delegate, become less of the control freak that I can be.

We also studied Flemings VARK method.  This categorises people as Visual, Audio, Reading/writing or Kinaesthetic/tactile learners.  I am a mix of two, Visual and Kinasthetic.  I can visualise concepts and I plan using graphic models such as maps, charts, graphs, but I learn best by ‘having a go’.  By touching and going through the motions of an activity, I am very conscious of my brain and body learning the activity simultaneously.  We use this method at school a great deal and the kids are aware of their learning styles, thus helping to provide a mixture of teaching methods suitable for all the class.  My learning preferences mean that during a project I can visualise my product or ideas for draft products at a very early stage.  However when learning new technologies, I really need to use the software to become familiar with it.  A visual demonstration or verbal instruction alone is not enough.  I am happiest when someone can sit with me and talk me through the process, with me taking the reins and pushing the buttons, so to speak.

As a team member I tend to take the role of leader or co-ordinator.  I am more comfortable viewing projects as a whole, and manage schedules.  I do ask for input, and feedback, and try to make group tasks as inclusive and involve everyone, but if there is a quiet person within that group who is shy at coming forth I am not one for digging information out of them.  This can set me out as bullish and occasionally blinkered, but if I have my eyes on the ball and my mind is occupied by the bigger picture, quite frankly I cannot be bothered pandering to someone who will not speak up for themselves.  I used to be shy and learnt the long hard way that if you stay quiet, you will not be heard.

This project is enabling me to practice new skills and develop existing skills.  All the software I am using will be useful for teaching Media and ICT when I study my PGCE for my chosen career in Teaching.  Currently the ICT and Media Department use software to produce webpages, movies, radio reports, posters and publications, the more knowledge I have of the software, and it’s application, the better I will be able to create an understanding for the pupils.
Time management also will be used on a daily, if not hourly basis, as school terms, weeks, days and lessons must be managed against schemes of work within a timeframe, and within a learning period.

I do feel ready now to move onto the next stage, more time to practice using the new software that I have been introduced to.  In particular my new friends Illustrator and Dreamweaver.

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