Course Project Descriptions

Context and Overview
Your main project for this course will consist of working in a collaborative group to plan, research, design, and implement a substantial portion of a web site for a group, an employer or business, or a local nonprofit organization. You are encouraged to choose a project that is most relevant to your interests and professional goals. Although your project content will be determined largely by the needs of the organization and intended audience you are working for, your web site should include most of the following:

  • policies, procedures, and organizational mission
  • training or instruction manual
  • help instructions and site map to assist users
  • recommendations or feasibility study results for implementation of major organizational change or program development
  • other documents or components that identify and solve some problem or need within the organization

This project will develop through many stages, each providing you with opportunities to learn and utilize different tools and resources available to you as a technical communicator. Each group will negotiate the exact scope of their project, according to established deadlines, goals, and constraints. Among the objectives for this project are the following:

  • designing, writing, testing, and revising text-and visual-based communication in a professional, workplace context
  • understanding how to integrate written content, graphics (photos, tables, graphs, icons, etc.), document layout and site navigation in order to create a usable, reader-friendly document
  • designing user-centered, rather than system-centered web sites
  • understanding how the rhetorical situation (audience, purpose, and context) shapes the development and final production of technical communication documents
  • learning to work effectively and efficiently within collaborative groups

Document Stages and Due Dates
Assignment Due Date

Individual Proposal & Pitch Day W 3/15
Audience Analysis Report (Informal) W 3/22
Group Proposal & Presentation
F 3/24
Proof of Concept Report & Presentation W 4/19
Usability Testing of Web Site Prototype W 4/26- F 4/28
Progress Report on Usability Test Results M 5/1
Power Point Presentation on Project W 5/10- F 5/12
Final Version of Web site Finals Week
Final Memo Analyzing rhetorical strategy of Web site Organization & Design Finals Week

Individual Proposal Directions (2-3 pages)- Due 3/15
In this proposal you will identify a project that you are interested in pursuing for the rest of the term. This assignment is your opportunity to describe a project and its central need or problem, to argue for its appropriateness to your personal interests or professional goals, and to convince me and others that you are qualified to attempt this project. This proposal should be written as an informal memo, following the format and categories given below.

Document Description
This document should be a relatively short (2-3 pages), informal memo that identifies a possible project to be developed further over the course of the term. It should follow the general memo format outlined in chapter seven and should include the following categories of information in the body:

  • Project Identification- identify and describe project and organization it will serve
  • Statement of Problem or Need- describe what need within the organization this project will fulfill and why it needs to be done
  • Overview of Approach and Solution- explain how you intend to approach this project and what eventual solution you plan to implement
  • Statement of Qualifications- describe what skills, interests, and qualifications make you the person for this project

Pitch Day
You will have approximately 2-3 minutes in which to present an overview of your project to other members of the class in order to convince them of its importance and usefulness. Your objective is to raise interest and to recruit at least one other person to join your project team for the remainder of the quarter. Once you have formed a team, your group will work collaboratively to develop and refine the original individual proposal. Not all individual project proposals will be pursued.

Group Proposal Memo and Presentation (5+ pages)- Due 3/24
This proposal will be the result of your project group’s development and refinement of an individual project proposal. Its purpose is to help your team focus clearly on your intended audience, objectives, and methods for completing your project over the term. In order to write it, you will need to do some initial research and interviewing with your proposed client and your intended audience.

Document Description
This should be a formal proposal that follows the general guidelines laid out in chapter 11 of Woolever’s text. The completed document should include the following components:

  • Front Matter- cover, title page, cover letter, table of contents, and an abstract or executive summary
  • Introduction-
    • Identify project and organization/client
    • Provide brief statement of need/problem and solution
    • Overview the proposal document contents
  • Body-
    • Describe background of organization/client and problem/need- What is the context and situation?
    • Describe target audience- Who are you creating this web site for, who will use it?
    • Describe proposed work- What will you accomplish and for what purpose?
    • Describe scope of project- What are the boundaries of your project; what will you do and what won’t you do?
    • Discuss potential benefits and the feasibility of the project- What is likely to be the ultimate outcome of doing this project?
    • Explain your project rationale and objectives- How do you justify your proposed work?
    • Describe your methods, procedures, and schedule for completing this project- Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals?
    • Describe your qualifications- What skills, interests, and qualifications do the individual members of your group bring that will help you accomplish your objectives?
    • State your required resources and costs- What do you need to be able to complete this project? How do you plan to access this?
  • Presentation
    As a team, you will have approximately 4-6 minutes to present your project and proposal to the rest of the class. The purpose is to gain additional feedback on your overall objectives, approaches, and methods. You will also be responsible for responding to the details of other groups’ presentations and projects.

Proof of Concept Report (10+ pages)- Due 4/19
Your Proof of Concept Report will offer a substantial update to your team’s original project proposal. In addition to providing information about how your project has evolved and been refined in the preceding weeks, this report will contain detailed information about the development and progress of your web site You will need to include considerable discussion and rationalization of the organizational and design elements you have chosen to include.

Document Description
In addition to updating the categories of information required in the group project proposal, this report should contain the following items:

  • Site Definition or Goals- what the site will do (its general purpose and specific objectives), what disciplinary or generic category it will belong to
  • Rationale- who the target audience is, why they would need or want to use this site
  • Needs and Concerns- what materials are needed to construct the site, what copyright or trademark issues the team must consider
  • Structure and Function- how the site is organized, why, and what advantages and consequences there are for this strategy
  • Presentation Design-
    • what the overall look and feel is (interface)
    • how will visual coherence be maintained throughout site
    • what visual elements (icons, graphics, image maps, etc.) will be used
    • how the text and graphics will complement each other
  • Navigation Design-
    • what strategy lies behind the placement and hierarchy of links
    • what navigation cues will be used

This document will also require two further types of information for both the report and the presentation:

  1. Storyboards- hand-drawn or screen-capture versions of either the prime segments of the web site or the representative portion that the team is creating for the final project
  2. Flowchart- demonstration of the options and features that typical users would encounter as they navigated the site

In this 5-6 minute presentation, your team will share the main points of your Proof of Concept report. You will also use your storyboards and flowchart to solicit feedback and suggestions from other class members about how you might further develop and revise your ideas before full implementation. You will also be responsible for responding to the details of other groups’ presentations and projects.

Usability Testing- In Lab on 4/26 and 4/28

When technical communicators want to get a sense of how real audiences will respond to a document, product, or set of instructions, they perform a Usability Test. Usability Testing takes many forms, including activities such as direct observation, audio and video user protocols (where microphones and/or cameras are used to capture readers’ thoughts that they say aloud as they attempt to complete a task), and pre- and post-test interviews. Testers then evaluate the data they collect and provide feedback and suggestions to designers, engineers, and writers in the form of a Progress Report so that appropriate changes and improvements can be made to the product.

Usability Testing Description
For this assignment, you will conduct Usability Testing on the functional prototype of your web site using three different class members from other project teams. There are two steps you need to do in order to complete this assignment:

  • Use the Usability Testing form on the following page to solicit feedback- you can either ask each participant these questions and write down the essence of their responses yourself, or you can ask each participant to write in their own responses on the form. Regardless, you must photocopy enough forms so that there is one for each participant.
    • Keep field notes of your observations of each test participant as she or he moves through your web site
    • Does a participant seem to struggle at any stage?
    • Does a participant ask for clarification of anything?
    • Does a participant move too quickly or too slowly from page to page with no difficulty?
    • What questions, comments, or suggestions does a participant have for the web site once the test is complete?

Usability Testing Form
Date of Test-
Document Design Group-
Document Title-
Document Tester-
Document Tester Signature-

  1. Did you need to ask for clarification or help at any point during your use of the web site? Where and why?

  2. What additional information or elements would you have found helpful for using this web site?

  3. Did you feel that this web site had and followed a clear purpose, or were there parts that seemed out of place?

  4. How would you rate and describe the graphical elements and overall design of the web site (i.e. useful, appropriate, distracting, beautiful, professional etc.)?

  5. What suggestions do you have for improving this site? Please be as specific as possible.

Progress Report (2+ pages)- Due 5/1
Technical communicators are often responsible for writing progress reports in order to inform supervisors or other team members about the status of a project. Its purpose is often to document work that already been completed and to describe what activities are currently underway or still need to be started. In this progress report, you task is to analyze the data you have collected from your Usability Test and to discuss the revisions you plan to undertake as a result.

Document Description

Your progress report should include the following:

  • Brief Update on Project Status
  • Reader Feedback- Summarize and characterize the comments you have received on your web site from testing participants and others.
  • Plans for Revision- Formulate and explain an organized plan for revising your web site Draw on your participant feedback and the reading you have done for class to justify your reasons for suggesting the changes you think are necessary.
  • Appendix- Attach all of your notes and participant forms to the end of your progress report

PowerPoint Presentations

The PowerPoint presentations will be held the last two days of the last week of regular classes (5/10 and 5/12). The purpose, beyond giving you the opportunity to gain experience using presentation software that is standard in most industries, is to show off and celebrate your final web site creation. Each group should plan a 5-7 minute presentation to demonstrate your overall site, as well as to discuss the significant changes you had to make over the course of the quarter.

Final Web site Project- Due Finals Week
Project Description
This project will represent the final product of all your efforts throughout the term. It should include a fully functional section of the web site you have designed, as well as storyboards and a flowchart that demonstrates what else you would do if you were to continue to work on this project.

Project Specifics
While the size and scope of all projects will vary depending on their purpose, intended audience, and number of team members, each group’s final web site should have a minimum of six fully functional screens. And though your project content will be determined largely by the needs of the organization and intended audience you are working for, your web site should include most of the following when applicable:

  • policies, procedures, and organizational mission
  • training or instruction manual
  • help instructions and site map to assist users
  • recommendations or feasibility study results for implementation of major organizational change or program development
  • links relevant to the purpose of the web site or organization/client
  • other documents or components that identify and solve some problem or need within the organization

Your final project, including all of the assignment components leading up to it (proposals, memos, reports, and presentations), will comprise 70% of your final grade. This grade will be calculated based on the following elements:

  • Rhetorical sophistication of web site and supporting documents:
    • quality of written content
    • quality of visual design, graphical elements, and layout
    • ease of use and navigation
    • attention to audience and purpose
    • attention to appropriate document genre and format guidelines

  • Collaborative participation:
    • level of effort and participation within project team
    • demonstration of responsibility and professionalism in team environment

  • Presentation sophistication:
    • adequate preparation
    • professional behavior and responsibility
  • use of supporting materials/presentation aids

Final Memo
The final memo assignment is designed to get you to reflect individually on the work you have done throughout the quarter. It should contain your thoughts on and analysis of your experience in your project group and the rhetorical strategies which guided your overall web site organization and design.

Document Description
In composing this individual, informal memo to me, you may want to reflect on some of the following questions. Of course, you are welcome and encouraged to add questions and ideas of your own.

Group Collaboration:

  • What was your overall experience in the group like?
  • What problems did your team encounter as you worked on various assignments and how did you go about solving them?
  • What strategies did your group employ to make the collaborative process work? What did you learn from each other about working together? How did you decide who would do what?
  • What do you wish your group would have done differently?
  • What did you learn as an individual about working on project teams that might help you in future?

Web site Rhetorical Strategy:

  • What decisions guided your overall design strategies?
  • What difficulties did you run into as you attempted to develop content and integrate it into the web site?
  • How did you balance your own ideas against those of your client, intended audience, and Usability Test participants?
  • What guided your decisions about site navigation and the use of visual elements?
  • If you were to start this project all over again, what would you do differently and why?