English 351, "Hypertext"
MWF 408 Stevenson
Jim Kalmbach (email@example.com)
421H Stevenson 438-7648, home: 454-8017
Office Hours: By appointment. I have plenty of time to meet with you, but my administrative responsibilities makes it difficult to predict exact times each week.
To me, hypertext means nonlinear reading and writing whether in print or electronic form. While hypertext has a long history, it has come to be associated with creating web sites and involves issues of multimedia, navigation, code, and virtuality; and these things are the focus of our class. You will learn to design and write for the screen, to attend to information architecture. You will also need to think conceptually about separating content from design from information structure. Over the years I have found that it is failing to come to grips with this distinction between content, form, and structure that limits student's work on the web. My major goal this semester is to help everyone make this separation.
|Texts in Bookstore (hopefully)||Web sites||
Krug, Steve. Rocket Surgery Made Easy.
This is Steve Krug's newest book. You will spend a lot of time in this class watching people use websites (your sites and sites you are critiquing). This book will tell you how.
Beaird, Jason. (2007). The Principles of Beautiful Web Design. sitepoint.
I have been torn between this book and Williams book and decided to try them both. We will have a death match and see which one survives.
Book Web site
Redish, Ginny. (2007). Letting Go of the Words. Morgan Kaufman.
One of the things I hope you learn in this class is that good content (not html, fancy graphics, or interactive animations) is the key. As an English or Communications major you are in a great position to become a content specialist on the web. We will use Redish's book to explore this idea, that content is the key.
|Ginny Redish's website|
Lessig, Lawrence. (2004). Free Culture. New York: Penguin. Lessig is the founder of creative commons.
I love Lessig and have assigned one of his books in all of my recent sections of hypertext. Free culture is not his most recent book, but it is one of my favorites. If you can stand to read long passasges of text on the screen, there is a free pdf version of this book at its website.
Online Reserve Readings
Krug, Steve. (2009). Don't Make Me Think. New Riders Press.
We will read selected chapters. Parts of this book are getting old but the good parts are still really really good. You will hear me say: "You are so making me think" many times this semester.
The reading will be available at https://www.casit.ilstu.edu/englishReserve/.
|Steve Krug's website|
Williams, Robin. (2005)The Non-Designer's Web Book. PeachPit.
This is another book that has gotten old but I still find that her vocabulary for talking about web design: Consistency, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity still work the best in help students do insightful web site critiques. We will read her chapters on design.
The reading we will do is available online at https://www.casit.ilstu.edu/englishReserve/.
|Robin Williams' website|
We will use Dreamweaver CS3. This program is the standard for serious web authoring. Other versions of Dreamweaver are available in various campus labs (see where to find dreamweaver). Although the current version of Dreamwawever is CS 5, you will find that our version works fine with both 4 & 5. Though expensive, you can buy the entire Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium 4 for under $300 at the techzone (a great price, it lists for about $1800). Creative Suite Design Premium includes InDesign, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Flash, and the full version of Acrobat that you can use to create and modify pdf files. If you are a publications studies major in English or a graphic communications major in Comm, or a digital rhetoric graduate student, this package is a good investment as you will use it constantly in many courses throughout your time at ISU. You do not have to use the software though, you will be able to get into 408 after hours to use our software.
Attendance and Participation (10%)
Attendance at all classes is required. Following English department policy, I will reduce your grade if you miss more than three classes without letting me know ahead of time. As a general rule, we will spend Mondays discussing readings, Wednesdays learning about software, and Fridays working on your projects, though this plan will vary at different stages in projects.
As part of your attendance and participation is this class, everyone will do a brief (no more than 15 minute) presentation on a website genre of some sort at the beginning of class. You will identity 3 sites that fit in this genre and do a presentation at the beginning of class about that genre. I will do the first genre analysis and talk more about the activity then.
Responding to Reading
You will write a response to each group of assigned readings in the class and post these responses to our class blog (http://blogs.english.ilstu.edu/eng351). In the schedule, I will note each of the readings that requires a response. For some readings, I will give you a topic to respond to, for others you are on your own. I am looking for reflective responses that engage with the ideas in the text and not ones that summarize the reading or dismiss it (it was great or it sucked). Responses that are one to two screens long are a good general goal. Try to relate the ideas in the readings to your projects and to things you have learned in other classes. For example, how does Beaird's ideas about design mesh with what you learned in 350? In the past I have had problems with students not doing the responses. Don't make that mistake. I use responses instead of giving tests because I find that students learn more when they write reflectively about readings. Not writing the responses to the readings is the number one reason students get lower grades than they want in this class.
Web Site Critiques (20%)
You will write three critiques of web sites during the semester. The web sites that you pick to critique should be related to the web project you are currently working on. Critical writing about web sites is essential to growth as a web designer. See the web critique page for more information.
Web Projects (60%)
You will work on three major web projects and create a web portfolio at the end of the semester. Be creative in finding topics. Pick things that interest you and relate to the rest of your life. I encourage you to take risks and I try to support risk-taking by giving you time to revise, by not grading until the final portfolio, by focusing on where you end up not where you begin, and by helping you solve technical problems.
For your repurposing, identity, and creation projects (but not your portfolio), you will write a reflection no later than a week after the project is due. As you will see when you visit the reflection page, I ask you to write about what you tried to accomplish and what you liked and didn't like about the site. I want you to observe someone using your site and to identity what you would like to fix in the site for your portfolio. I have found that when student do a careful, thoughtful job of reflecting on their web sites: telling me what they liked and what they didn't like, what they were trying to accomplish and why, I do a much better job of responding to the site and situating my comments in their concerns.
Sandbox I am calling this project the "Sandbox Project" because it is an opportunity to experiment with the different elements of web design. I have found that too many students rush to create sites before they have a chance to experiment with design options and as a result they get locked into a single design strategy and use it over and over again for the rest of the semester. This project is an attempt to introduce you to the wide range of layout options that are available in Dreamweaver so that you can pick layouts that are appropriate to your content and design vision--so that form and content can intertwine in your other projects. More information about this assignment is available on the Sandbox Project Page.
Identity You will create a web site that constructs some aspect of your identity. This project invites you to think about the relationship of the internet to your sense of who you are. More information is available on the identity project page, and I maintain an archive of identity projects.
Creation You will end the semester creating a major web on a topic of your choosing. My goal for this project is that you create something new, something that really engages you: a project that enables you to think about new ways of writing on the web. We will negotiate the exact nature of this final project on an individual basis, as it is important to me that your final project advance your personal, educational, and career goals. Again you will write a reflection on this project. More information about the creation project is available on the creation project page and I maintain an archive of past creation projects.
Web Portfolio. At the end of the semester, you will create a simple web based portfolio displaying and contextualizing your work to people outside of the class. You do not need to write a reflection about the portfolio. More information about your web portfolio is available on the web portfolio page. Examples of student portfolios are available on the class home page.
Graduate Student Project. Graduate students will do an additional project of some sort that they construct in a manner that will advance their educational and/or career goals. In general, projects fall into three groups: (1) a critical project (in any digital media or print) on a nonlinear topic related to the class and to your interests, (2) Outside reading on a hypertext-related topic that interests you and a reflection on that reading, or (3) an additional web project to beef up your portfolio. Some graduate students have combined their paper and final project, writing a reflective essay about the project. I also welcome other ideas. One MA student wrote a draft of his MA thesis proposal because it involved a web-based project. See the graduate project page for more information and examples of past work.
Project plan You write a simple plan for each project, telling me what you want to do for your project, why you want to do it, what a typical page will look like and what pages you plan to include. Beginning web designers all need to plan more than they think they do. If as a beginner, you are working from a plan, and you get stuck on aspect of the site, you can set the problem aside and work on other parts of the site. The more of parts of the site you complete, the easier the rest of it gets to complete the rest of the site. When you do not have a plan and get stuck, however,you have nowhere to go and just get more and more frustrated and mad at the teacher. Initially, I am going to be very hard nosed about forcing you to develop plans for your projects. You will find, though, that as the semester progresses, and I get to know people, I will adapt the planning process to your individual style of work.
Prototype After you have pitched your plan, the next step is to design your prototype: a single page that has all the elements that you want to include in the site. I am a huge believer in getting something up on the web quickly, getting feedback, refining the design and then gradually adding content and links. My motto is act fast, test, and refine. When you create a prototype, it is much easier to get feedback and much easier to make changes because you only have to revise one page.
Preview After you have your prototype page looking like you want it to, the next step is to build a complete version of your web site. Initially, you will take your prototype page and use save as to create the other pages in the site. Later you will learn how to use templates to generate the core elements of your pages and then flow unique content into them.
Roll out You are ready to go public. T-shirts all around. It is time to move on to the next project. Especially at the beginning of the class, roll out can be the hardest part of the process, because you do not want to let go, but you have to. You have to. You can, however, continue to make changes to the site you just completed until the end of the semester.
Reflection After you have rolled out the project, you observe someone using your site and write a reflection about the process. See reflect.html for more information. After I receive your reflection, I will provide you with feedback about what things need to be changed and what issues you need to think about in your next site. In general you will want to correct small problems that make you look bad and leave the big issues for your next project.
English 351 Grading
Your grade in this class will be based on participation, on completing the reading assignments and the reviews, and on the quality of your web projects in your portfolio. In looking at the quality of web projects, I pay most attention to and am most interested in your improvement over the semester. Of course, students with a deep web design background may produce three wonderful sites over the course of the semester that do not show dramatic growth, and that is OK, doing consistently high quality work is another route to success, but for most students, I am interested in where you end up not where you start. Consequently, I pay particular attention to your final project, and I take the ambition, scope, and execution of the creation project to be the best evidence of the quality of your work in the class.
I will not grade your web sites at any time in the semester. I do not grade because my emphasis is on improvement not on the quality of each project. Your final grade will be based on the quality of your work in your web portfolio and on your completion of other class requirements. Although I do not grade your web sites, I will do formal evaluations at the conclusion of each project after you have written your reflection. In these evaluations, I try to give you a sense of how you are doing and help you establish goals for your next project. If towards the end of the semester, you do not have a sense of how you are doing in the class, please come and talk to me.
In general, people who get an A in the class have participated; they have either shown steady growth as web designs or produced three strong projects. They have met the deadlines in the class, and their work demonstrates mastery of all the different aspects of web site authoring. They have written a reflection about each project and have done a nice job of assembling a class portfolio. They have participated actively in the peer review process. They choose a layout page that is appropriate to the content and purpose of their site. Their projects show engagement with the content and with the process of web design.
People who get a B in the class have usually done good solid work. They have three fine projects, but no one project really stands out or the projects do not show much progress. These projects tend to be fairly ordinary in terms of ambition, features, content, etc. Often their participation or attendance is slack. They may not have not completed all of the responses to the readings or turned in the reviews late. B students show much less change during the semester. Often their final project is another version of their first two efforts.
People who get a C in the class have usually done the minimum. Their projects are modest in scope and execution. Oten they have used the same starter page for each project and has made little customization to that page. All of his or her sites look like variations of themselves. Often their navigational strategies haven't advanced beyond the linear. These projects often have untitled pages and broken links.
People who get below a C have missed significant portions of class, not done major parts of the course work and/or made no progress as web designers.
My Evaluation Criteria
Here are the criteria that I use when evaluating projects and portfolios.
Is the purpose of the site clear? Does the site support its purpose. Lack of clarity about purpose (and not thinking about the implications of purpose to design) is the number one problem with web sites of all kinds.
Is the content of the web appropriate and sufficient for its purpose?
Is the site substantial.
- Overall Look
Is the site attractive? Is the look of the site appropriate to its audience and purpose? Do you separate the appearance from the structure of your site and use CCS rules to create a strong look?
- Initial impression
Does the initial page(s) provide a good orientation to the site? Do I know why I am there, what I will find, and where I can go?
Do I know how to get around? When I click on a link do I know what to expect? After I arrive, do I know how to get back? Do the links make sense? Does the site need/support nonlinear navigation? Are the breaks between pages sensible?
- Proofreading and testing
Does each page have an appropriate title? Do the links all work? Has the interface been tested? Has the text been proofread and spell checked? Has the author tested the site with real users?
Things that Drive me Crazy
Here are some things to look out for as your work on your projects. Many of these are copy editing type issues and should be particularly attended to as the term ends and you are working on your. I will add to this list through out the semester.
- Be sure all of your links work. Nothing makes me crazier than broken links and/or images at the end of the semester, especially in your portfolio. Look at your site on lots of different computers in different settings using different browsers. The most common reason that students end up with broken links is that they have used a single computer all semester and not tested their work adequately.
- Be sure all of your pages have page titles. A page title is not the same thing as the name of a file. It is the name of your page that appears in the history list then you try to go back. When you have no page title, your pages appear in the history list as "untitled document" and are essentially unusable. Add the page title at the title text area at the top of the dreamweaver work area.
- Be sure to use the spell checker (under the text menu in Dreamweaver). Copy editing is hard on the screen, but still important. Get in the habit of spell checking your pages.
- Get rid of long scrolling pages unless the page (like this one) is designed to be printed. The main content of the page should be on the first screen. Overall the page should not be more that two or three screens long.