Monday, December 16, 2013

Welcome to the World (Wide Web)

To round out a project-filled semester, my digital portfolio is complete!  My portfolio includes information about myself, my career aspirations, work samples, and my resume.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Ultimate Branding Tool

Branding is a familiar and necessary marketing tool in the communications world.  But perhaps the most important thing to brand is oneself.  A website provides an effective and simplistic format for an individual to brand oneself and that is what I'll aim to do in my webpage.  

I seek to create a digital portfolio with the hopes of achieving many future goals I have set.  My site objectives are to produce a searchable website that showcases my communication skills necessary for a career after graduation.  I would like my site to display writing samples, my resume, and work samples from previous courses and internships to display my proficiency in communication studies. 

With aspirations to be a press secretary on Capitol Hill, my audience is any potential employer in a Congressional office in Washington, D.C.  They, as the user, will need to be able to easily navigate my site in order to quickly determine my potential as an employee.  My audience would need to know a little about myself, including education level and previous experience, in addition to what programs and platforms I am capable of working with.  Most importantly, I will need a way for users to contact me with questions (and potential job offers!).

The scope of my website is important as I begin to build it from the ground up.  I could embed a professional Twitter account, Instagram, and LinkedIn page to showcase social media skills.  A contact form and my resume are definite necessities for a successful webpage.  I also would like to include writing samples from previous internships, which include public relations blog posts, social media posts, and press releases.  Other work samples would include papers written on the topic of government from my political science classes.  Digital media can be provided from the slideshow created in Digital Communications in addition to photos taken while on a study away trip which visited 13 countries in 108 days.  Displaying photos can show my abilities to use Photoshop professionally, as well as capture important moments.

Here are a few website designs that were really aesthetically pleasing to me!

I like this Pilates Site's social media icons in the top left corner.

The simplicity of Stapleton's site exudes class and creativity!

Jason James's portfolio displays his subcategories uniquely.

The design of A Naturally-Aged Story invites their audience warmly.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

People, People, Lots of People!

People are good for a multitude of things.  One of those things is intelligently reading webpages for their needs.  Redish describes how “Writing Web Content That Works” is crucial in creating a webpage.  The audience is hands down the most important part when making a webpage so you must understand them before you start.

Seven steps to understanding your audiences: (3)
  1. List your major audiences.
  2. Gather information about your audiences.
  3. List major characteristics for each audience.
  4.  Gather your audiences’ questions, tasks, and stories.
  5. Use your information to create personas.
  6. Include the persona’s goals and tasks.
  7. Use your information to write scenarios for your site. 

Above is a homepage from Epic PR Group based in Alexandria, Virginia.  Originally, I sought the webpage because it wasn’t very functional, was difficult to navigate, and was extremely hard to find what you were looking for.  But to my surprise, the website has completely been redone since I have interned for the public relations firm.  The navigation bar at the top of the page provides shortcuts titled ‘Who We Are,’ ‘What We Do,’ ‘What We Think,’ ‘What You Need to Know,’ and ‘Contact Us.’  Overall, I think the redesign is mainly positive.  What else does the site do well?  

Despite a redesign, I still think their website could use a bit more of a user-friendly interface.  There is no search bar and it isn’t obvious at a first glance that Epic is a public relations firm.  They do provide a unique ‘Stay Informed’ form at the bottom, but who knows what you’re really signing up for?  What other improvements do you think Epic could have made?        

Monday, November 18, 2013

The User Experience

The Elements of User Experience, written by Jesse James Garrett, explains how to best build technology with the user in mind.  The first chapter focuses broadly on “The Elements of User Experience” and the second chapter narrows its view to display the details behind the specific elements.     

Garrett begins with defining user experience as “the experience the product creates for the people who use it in the real world,” (6).  A bit obvious, I know, but I felt it necessary for the audience to understand the central focus of the book: the user.

One of the more important points he makes in the chapter proves that product design matters.  The product must be functional, or who would want to use it?  There are far more companies who could perfect a mediocre idea and turn it into a million dollar business before you could even blink.  Therefore it’s most important that the product be user friendly and easy to operate.

Another important factor in webpage design is a company’s success in gaining capital.  In order to be a good business, your users have to have a positive experience.  If you want a good ROI, or return on investment, the product design must warrant customer support (13).

Ultimately, the user-centered design is a simple idea, but one that is more complex in execution (17).  Can you think of a product that was design with the user in mind?  What about one that needed a remodel after customer feedback?

Garrett’s second chapter touches on The Five Planes.  “These five planes…provide a conceptual framework for talking about user experience problems and the tools we use to solve them,” (21).

  1. The Surface Plane
  2. The Skeleton Plane
  3. The Structure Plane
  4. The Scope Plane
  5. The Strategy Plane

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The iPhone Rises

For my video project, I chose to focus on the climb of the iPhone to success and how Furman students utilize social media on a daily basis.  In a world where iPhone has become synonymous  with cell phone, I set out to determine how our generation sees the digital world differently.    

Monday, November 11, 2013

Online Editing for Dummies

Brian Carroll’s Writing for Digital Media devotes an entire chapter to “Getting It Right: Online Editing, Designing and Publishing.” 

The chapter opening proclaims, “online publishing is not at all like editing for print, at least in terms of job responsibilities,” (120).  Luckily for us, Carroll lays out eight key points to step-by-step edit online.
  1. Identify the readers and the purpose of the content: Focus mainly on the needs of the reader
  2. Define document structure and links: Make sure the website is easy to navigate
  3. Define the style: Use templates and keep it consistent
  4.  Edit: Editing chunks of randomly spread information is more effective than reading start to finish
  5. Copyedit: Search diligently for typos and misspellings
  6. Copyedit (again!): Utilize other sources this time, such as dictionaries, stylebooks, or encyclopedias
  7. Write headlines: Headlines are necessary for quick skimming and finding useful information
  8.  Test usability: Navigation should be easy and make sense for your content

Another concept Carroll dives into is multimedia storytelling.  The two necessary skill sets for editors include XHTML coding and being proficient in multimedia (128).  These two ar
e most important when it comes to telling your digital story, but the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack studies reveal four succinct characteristics of first-rate multimedia presentations (129).
1.     Short is better.
2.     Interactive is better.
3.     Personal (or local or hyperlocal) is preferred.
4.     Navigability is central.

So, can you think of any well-designed webpages? Which characteristics make it that way?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Do You See What I See?

John S. Douglass and Glenn P. Harnden focus on “Point of View” in their work, The Art of Technique: An Aesthetic Approach to Film and Video Production.  The authors meticulously explain the perspective of the storyteller and the best approaches to telling a story.  Decisions must be made to determine how to best display a perspective in the most effective manner and Douglass and Harnden walk the reader through it.

First Person
First person is most useful in narratives.  “Presenting the ‘truth’ about events is probably most credible as a first person, eyewitness account” (32).  When telling of an event that a character witness himself, a “direct, personal expression,” works best (32). 

The technique used most often is a voice-over narration.  A first person narrative lets a viewer know what a character is thinking or feeling at a moment in time.  It also allows viewers to more easily characterize the narrator in their role.  How does a first person narration enable the story line to progress more quickly?

Second Person
The second person in productions is often deemed “you” as the viewer in the audience.  The authors elucidate on their point with examples such as, “This is how you do such-and-such.  This is of concern to you and you and you,” making the plot significant to the audience (34).

Cinema verite operates on a platform somewhere between first and second person.  Its unique style introduces the camera as a participant in the story, rather than an “invisible observer” (34).  Can you think of an example where cinema verite is used?  

Third Person
The majority of productions are made in third person.  “The actions of characters and people on the screen are rendered from an observer’s point of view, but this point of view is not omniscient,” (35).  There are still things left unknown for both the audience and observer to uncover.

The authors end the section with a powerful, although seemingly obvious message.  “When choosing a point of view, the best choice is the one that tells the story in the most compelling way,” (38).