Alan Longley

Reflective Journal · FdA Web Design · University Centre Wakefield

LO4: Evaluation

Having a prior experience of self-learning in year one I began this module feeling confident in my ability to on a self-learning basis. What I did not anticipate for was the responsibility we had to define our own learning objectives and assessment criteria.

Having to define our own level of learning and what we would have to technically produce to be assessed on has been the most difficult task so far. When I originally decided on what my learning objectives would be and what I would do at each stage to create an assessable piece of work, I did not believe I had set my self more than I could cope with. However, when I then added a creative brief to the work load, I now realize I was probably asking more of me than I could really achieve.

Because of the task I had set myself in the creative brief I was beginning to find less time to produce the assessable work. One of the deliverables I had set myself was to produce a 10 minute presentation that would show my understanding of PHP and MySQL. This unfortunately was sacrificed because I had not given myself enough time in my learning contract to gain a level of understanding that would be sufficient enough to present to others.

I also struggled with the material I had obtained to aid in my learning of PHP and MySQL. I purchased two books online that covered both PHP and MySQL, the first was ‘Build your own database driven web site’ by Kevin Yank and the second was ‘PHP & MySQL for Dynamic Web Sites’ by Larry Ulman. The first book by Kevin Yank is a Sitepoint book which I have used before and I assumed it would be easy to pick up and read. So without checking any reviews I purchased it. When I eventually got the book I found that it was for a more advanced user of PHP and the language used was hard to follow. Luckily the second book I purchased by Larry Ulman which I had read reviews of and made sure was for beginners was a lot easier to learn from.

After settling into a book I could understand and was able to learn from, I began to build my PHP site and my database in MySQL. As the site slowly progressed and my knowledge of PHP grew I felt confident again in my ability to self learn. I am happy with the product/site I have created and look forward to using my new found knowledge in the future.

If I were to face a module or situation like PPD3 in the future I would certainly be more modest in my expectations of what I can achieve. I believe this experience will certainly prepare me for the impending commercial work. If there comes a point that I may need to pick up a book to learn something new I will be able to reflect on this experience and avoid hopefully avoid any issues that may effect other jobs or assignments I have.

LO1: Investigate & Research

Self directed learning and the challenge of learning a subject within a set amount of time and from scratch is certainly no easy task. I believe that I am capable of  learning  a subject to a certain level of understanding but feel that I could struggle with the time constraints.

The subject I have chosen to learn is PHP and MySQL. My initial thoughts when I came to research the subject was to check online at the home pages of both PHP and MySQL and investigate there how  they work.

After becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information on both PHP and MySQL I decided that I would investigate the most common uses of PHP. To do this I decided to contact a number of ex-students and web professionals and ask them their most common uses.

In response to my question, Timothy Stringer replied. “Before moving on to using PHP with MySQL I found it useful to provide common elements of a site such as a header or a footer using a PHP include statement so that the information common throughout all pages only needs to be edited in one place, much like  HTML & CSS.” [1]

Tim then went on to say that in his experience PHP is most commonly used with MySQL to enable a web site to run from a database. Where all the content would be stored in the database and using PHP and MySQL  bring the relevant content onto the page dependent on the page being viewed, more commonly called a Content Management System (CMS).

Tim finished off his email by saying. “In terms of the widespread use of php I think the fact it was used to build something like Facebook also suggests it’s quite capable language if used in the right hands.” [1]

I found Tim’s email to be a really useful introduction to PHP and a simple insight into the basic and more technical uses of PHP.

As I read and study PHP and MySQL further I hope that I will be able to implement some of the basic functions of PHP and MySQL and understand more greatly the intricacies of both.

Presentation

In September 2010 I began my journey on the FdA Web Design Course, and now nearly 8 months later here I am sharing my learning experiences.

The first module that faced us in September was the first of our Work Related Learning modules. Our task was to compare and contrast the thoughts and views of a number of web professionals in the local area. I was successful in arranging three interviews with two companies and one free lance web designer. One of the things I was surprised to learn throughout  this module was that there is no regulatory body within the sector, and that anybody that wants to learn the basics of web design and produce sites can do so to whatever standard they like.

Our second module that also started in September was again the first of our PPD modules. This module required us to create an online reflective journal using WordPress [.com], and in it, respond to a series of directed PPD tasks, shown below:

• Entry 1: Where I have come from

• Entry 2: Where I am now

• Entry 3: Where I am going

In October we commenced on two more creative modules, which were Typography and Interface Design. In the typography module we were to create a portfolio of typographic layouts without using anything more than simple shapes and colours and the typeface itself. This module not only taught me about typography but allowed me to realize that a high quality design can be produced with only the basic of tools.

The interface design module was to be our first web site design and required us to specify a web site for a local hero/heroine using a range of pre-production devices such as screen designs, a content inventory and a site map, then pitch our design solution in a formal presentation.

In January we would then get the chance to build our site design as we began the next module, Web Development 1. The build would have to be standards-compliant to XHTML and CSS, and would then be published onto a sub domain of our web space.

wd1.alanlongley.co.uk

In January we would also begin another creative module in Digital Imaging and the second of our PPD modules. Digital Imaging was another module where we would create a portfolio through a number of briefs. However, we were not restricted to simple typefaces, basic colours and shapes. I really enjoyed this module and the challenges it contained, and found myself having to really open my eyes to identify small design choices that can complete a design.

The second PPD module again required us to develop our journal through more directed PPD tasks:

A reflective evaluation task

A programme marketing task

• A web site management task

• A technical task

An educational visit task

This PPD module also required us to deliver a summative verbal presentation which reflects our journey through the first year of the course. Throughout the year and the tasks that have required some form of presentation, I have come to realize that although I do feel nervous before hand once the presentation begins I am able to control my nerves and speak confidently.

Our final module of the year would be our second WRL module and would involve originating and developing a creative and technical solution to a web design brief for the Pontefract & District Golf Club. The brief was to modernise the look and feel of the current web site by redesigning a set of sample pages and then building them. The pages we were required to redesign where:

• Home Page

• One of the 18 Hole Pages

• Terms & Conditions Page

• Corporate Visitors Page

The result can be seen on my sub domain: wrl2.alanlongley.co.uk

When I think about the second year of the course and some of the things that will be involved I am both excited and nervous. There will be new modules, new class mates, and a huge amount of commercial work and team work. I am looking forward to these challenges and showing that I have learned from the mistakes made over the past 8 months.

Made A Ripple

Here we are, only a few weeks from completion of our first year of studies. Have we achieved all we set out to achieve at the beginning of the year? I believe in most of the modules we have done okay, however in the second of PPD tasks a few cracks began to appear.

The PPD 2 module involved a number of tasks, some individual and a group task. This group task would be our first experience of working together as a team, and due to the fact that our second year will involve a large amount of team work it was important that we did well. The task, titled ‘Make a Splash’ required us to come up with some innovative ways of marketing the course and delivering those ideas.

The first problem we had was arranging a time and place to meet to brain storm and to come up with ideas for marketing the course. This should have been done in the first week of receiving the task but didn’t really happen until we were well into the task. Once we had realised that if we left it too late to generate some ideas, we may not complete the task we successfully arranged a number of brainstorming sessions.

The sessions that we had produced some positive work and some good ideas for marketing the course. Before implementing any of these ideas or contacting anyone to progress the ideas, a proposal was required. Unfortunately, before we had proposed our ideas we had started to make contact with a number of people who may be able to assist us with our plans of marketing the course. Obviously this should not of happened until after the ideas were proposed.

After getting a bit ahead of ourselves and adjusting to the change in the size of our team, we eventually produced a proposal of our ideas. Once the ideas were approved and guidelines were set for each of them, every member of the team was then given an idea to progress. The ideas that were distributed seemed to match the team members strengths, however I believe it would have been more beneficial for the team to distribute the ideas in a less obvious manner. This would then have given the individual a chance to improve a skill they may have been lacking in and allow them to call upon the other members of the team if they needed assistance. Because of the method that was used to assign the tasks communication between the team was not required as much as it could have been.

Some of the ideas we decided on have now been implemented and are making some progress, although I don’t believe that they are making the splash we hoped they would. This may come with time and more discipline.

I believe if we were to approach this task again from the beginning we would be more focused as a group. The lessons that we have learnt from this task will also help us to avoid making the same errors next year during the commercial work. I think this preparation will also be beneficial when it comes to working in a team in the workplace.

I feel I have greatly benefited from this task and it has shown me where my strengths and weaknesses are in a team or group situations. In my current form of employment I don’t necessarily work in a group although I am sure that the processes that I have learnt in doing this task can only have a positive effect. This preparation and the lessons I have learnt will also help me if I ever decide to look for a job within a company that requires me to work in a team.

In the coming months and as we take on the commercial work in our second year I would hope to see a change in how I handle myself and the challenges that I am faced with in a team situation. I believe we are more ready now as a team to deal with prospect of commercial work and I am excited for the year ahead.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park Visit

March 2011, and it is surprisingly warm and sunny here at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). I have arrived nice and early to beat the crowds, but also to enjoy the surroundings with the least chance of being disturbed. My task is to find a piece of work that is on display at YSP created by the artist Martin Creed (MC). After locating and choosing a piece of work on display I will then evaluate the piece and share some of my thoughts and feelings it provokes.

Work No.700

Work No.700

Luckily for me my decision has been made easy as MC only has one piece of work currently on display at the sculpture park. Unfortunately I feel I may struggle a little after discovering that the piece of work I will be evaluating is made up of three progressively slimmer I-beams. I am feeling slightly disappointed as I was hoping to see something that had bends and curves and was easy on the eye.

Work No.700

'I' The Serif

However, the longer I look at the beams and the closer I look there are bends and curves to be found. It turns out that I-beams are quite the serif of the construction world, and these curves no matter how small would have to do.

Titled ‘Work No.700’ and produced by MC in 2007 the piece of work has been on display at YSP since 1st February 2011 and is on loan courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Having never done an exercise like this before I am not quite sure how to express my thoughts and feelings, or how to tune in to what MC was feeling when he created this work. In the description of the piece it states “The work is made up of three progressively slimmer I-beams stacked together, simultaneously eliminating and alluding to the intended function of the objects by making them unusable, but retaining a quality that suggests they are second-hand.” No matter how many times I read that it doesn’t seem to make any sense and seems like a bit of a riddle.

When I think of art and work that should be on display, the first things that come to my mind are the tools and materials which an artist would use. Then I would picture an artist either drawing, painting or sculpting something with their hands. However, when it comes to MC and ‘Work No.700’ it doesn’t seem to tell that sort of story. I believe it could be possible that MC didn’t even get his hands dirty when producing this piece of work, and now it is currently on display at YSP, and is classed as art.

It has been a very pleasant morning at YSP and I have enjoyed the sun, the grounds and the chance to take some pictures. I’m not sure that I successfully made a connection with MC or ‘Work No.700’, however, I feel I have simultaneously enjoyed myself and produced a piece of work that is usable.

Make A Splash Proposal

Leaflet Proposal

What we’re going to do:

We will Print a quantity of leaflets and posters within a specified budget and distribute to sixth form students and college students. We will make contact with sixth forms and colleges to introduce ourselves and follow up with posters detailing the course and how to get in touch. These posters would then be displayed within the sixth forms and colleges for the students to see.

How are we going to do it:

Posters: Initially we will contact the sixth forms and colleges to make them aware of who we are and why we are marketing the course. If they are then happy to display our posters within their buildings, posters will be provided to each establishment. If any establishment was not happy to display the posters then nothing would be sent, which would reduce the risk of getting no response. Any spare posters remaining after communicating with the education establishments would be placed at locations that have a high concentration of students, e.g, Bus Stops, Train Stations.

Leaflets: Here are a number of methods for leaflet distribution:

1. Handing out Leaflets

2. Placed on Car Windscreens

3. Solus Distribution (delivered on itself) – Although it is the most expensive form of leaflet distribution it does allow you to target the distribution which can be very effective.

4. Shared Distribution (delivered together with up to 3 additional leaflets) – Can be 50% cheaper than solus distribution but can reduce effectiveness due to other leaflets competing for recipients attention.

5. Inserted in Local Newspaper – Delivery is often very reliable and cost is reasonable as the delivery was already being made. However, many people do not read local newspapers so there is a risk of the leaflet not being seen at all.

The method that we would implement would be to handout the leaflets in highly concentrated student areas. This method has the lowest cost and allows students taking a leaflet to ask questions they may have immediately.

Strengths

• Control of Distribution and Placement

• If the design is intriguing, it may get people to visit the course site

• If the posters are up around colleges/schools may get people interested from an early age

• Low course fees should be a main thing on the poster

Weaknesses

• May be ignored.

• May never be seen

• May never be used

• Cost

 

Mini Learning Contract

Learning Objective:

The Javascript Lightbox is the subject I chose to learn at an introductory level.

Methodology:

The first thing I wanted to do after choosing my subject was to find out who had created the lightbox idea. Hello Google. My first search was the word ‘lightbox’ which turned up  numerous results. After finding the answer to my initial question I then investigated the lightbox to see exactly what it was and what it could do. Here I came across a number of sites including Wikipedia, Huddle Together and the Lightbox Clones Matrix. Once I had tried a few of the lightbox clones and understood their features I then set out on writing my tutorial.

Resources:

Lokesh Dhakar: http://www.lokeshdhakar.com/

Lightbox: http://www.huddletogether.com/projects/lightbox/

Lightbox 2: http://www.lokeshdhakar.com/projects/lightbox2/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightbox_(JavaScript)

The Lightbox Clones Matrix: http://planetozh.com/projects/lightbox-clones/

Results:

The Lightbox created by designer and web developer Lokesh Dhakar is a simple unobtrusive script used to overlay images and only images on the current page. A user can click an image on a web page to have it magnified in a lightbox window. The lightbox will also shade out the remaining area of the page to allow the user to focus on the magnified image. This window allows the user to remain on the current page improving usability. Eliminating the need to leave the page then click the back button to return to the original page.

Since the release of lightbox script other developers have worked on similar projects, resulting in products such as Fancybox and Colorbox. These alternatives will not only display images but have additional features such as:

• Slideshows

• HTML Elements

• SWF Movies

• Iframes

• Ajax Requests

The Lightbox Clones Matrix is a site which compares these scripts that display images and other objects. The matrix allows users to compare the scripts either by size, features or the javascript library it uses. The original lightbox was designed from scratch and did not require the use of a javascript library.

The new Lightbox 2 and most lightbox clones will use a javascript library for the animation and positioning of the window and to reduce the file size of the main javascript file.

Some of the more popular libraries are:

• Jquery

• Prototype

• and Moo Tools

Conclusion:

When we were told we would have to learn a subject and then teach it to each other I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to put the information I had to learn into some form of tutorial. As I obtained the information regarding the lightbox and prepared my presentation I was happy with the progress I was making and felt more confident that I could complete the task.

Planning my own learning has being an enjoyable experience and a challenge. Although we were able to choose our own subject it is difficult to know whether you are learning the right things about it and I found this the biggest challenge. In future learning contracts I believe I will be more prepared and more confident in my abilities to organize information into a clear and educational presentation.