The Sandbox Project: Exploring Starter Pages
Some Previous Sandbox Projects
For years my first project in English 351 required students to take something they had written and repurpose it as a website. You can see examples of these projects in my repurposing archive. I liked the idea of a repurposing project for a number of reasons. In particular, it forced you to think right away about some critical issues such as the relationship of print to the web, how do you take linear text and break it into a series of discrete "web pages" how do you create links, what sort of text should anchor your links, how do you create a navigational structure?
I have come to realize, however, that the repurposing project also had a number of problems. In particular, it put too much pressure on beginning web designers to create a project before they had time to play with these new tools. The result was too often that students picked the first starter page they looked at and then re-used that page over and over again throughout the semester, regardless of whether that page fit their content or their purpose. It is the classic problem with templates (and really it just another form of the classic war between form and content, see this website for a poet's take on this war). Everyone's first instinct is to cram their content into someone else's template rather than adapt the template to fit their content.
And yet I do not know of an alternative. Very few people create web pages from a blank page any more, particularly not English majors. It requires too much backend knowledge, too much code. People mostly begin projects with some sort of starting point, whether they use pages from old projects, templates, Dreamweaver layout pages, pre-built websites pages that they have found on the internet, or a blog, or a content management system. NO ONE STARTS FROM SCRATCH ANYMORE. (That was my Charles Olson imitation.) One of the great challenges of contemporary web design is learning how to adapt someone else's starting points to your content and your projects.
As a result, I have abandoned the repurposing project for something that I now call "The Sandbox Project." In the sandbox project, you will put together a series of pages each based on a various Dreamweaver layout pages. The goal of this project is to experiment with the design resources that are available in Dreamweaver and Photoshop so that when you start your next project, you can make an informed decision about what design resource would best fit your content and your purposes
- 7 pages in all.
- A cover page, five content pages and a sources page.
- The pages should all be linked together in some way
- Each page should have a title (the name that appears in the top of a web browser window).
- Each page should have an h1 header
- Each page should have some text and a picture.
- Each page should experiment with fonts and colors
- All of your source material both text and images must be credited in your sources page.
You may include other elements if you want to experiment with them such as sounds or movies.
In your site, include the following layout pages and layout page elements in any combination:
- At least one page with one column
- At least one page with two columns
- At least one page with three columns
- At least one elastic layout page
- At least one fixed layout page
- At least one liquid layout page
- At least one hybrid layout page
- At least one absolute layout page
I do not care what sort of text and images you use. If you want you can pull text at random off the internet; that is fine with me as long as you credit your sources. However, you are welcome to make this experiment more meaningful by using a group of text and images that cohere in some way: For example you can you five of your own poems (or poem fragments along with appropriate images), you can pull meaningful text or fragments of text from writers who are important to you. You can also do something more experimental with found text: pull twitter feeds or comments from your favorite blog, use selected quotes from a manual or bits from a cookbook. Whatever.
I invite you to make this site a meaningful or as nonsensical as you wish. The idea is to experiment with the elements of web design without the pressure to create a formal site that has a rhetorical purpose and audience. You can and should play with different things.
When this project is completed, you will write a reflection. I will have a handout with details about this reflection.
This project will not be graded, and it will not impact your final grade except to the extent that you omit any of the above requirements.
This assignment is designed for people with little or no web design experience. (If the only web page you have made was in 249, this is assignment is for you!) If you come to class with a good deal of experience creating websites, and in particular, if you are comfortable using and tweaking Dreamweaver layout pages, I will be happy to negotiate an alternative project with you.