Group Project Directions

Purpose
This assignment is designed to give you realistic experience designing web sites for a client as part of a development team. Working with two to four classmates, you will propose, design, and create a fully functioning web site for the MTU Writing Center. If your design meets all of the functional and aesthetic needs of the client, your design may become the new Writing Center web site.

Guidelines for What You'll Be Doing
Based on your discussions with Writing Center staff, your research into what the Writing Center does, and your analysis of other University Writing Centers, you will develop a web site for the MTU Writing Center. This is a complex project which will need to result in a sophisticated and usable site. Although I cannot specify what you need to include (because these decisions are part of the design process in which I want you to engage), at minimum, the site your group creates should:

  • fulfill the Writing Center's goals and purposes as outlined in the discussion with the Assistant Director
  • put forth a positive and inviting image of the Writing Center, the Humanities Department, and the University
  • appeal to the intended audiences of the Writing Center
  • have a usable hierarchy and navigation system so that web users of all levels can find what they need quickly and easily
  • have an aesthetically pleasing interface and design
  • include appropriate resources and links as suggested by staff and users

Due Dates
The final version of this project will not be due until the last week of class, however, preparatory work and early versions will be due as follows:

  • Written Project Proposal, 3 screen-based design mockups, & Pitch Presentation- 7/22
  • First version of working site- 7/31
  • Presentation & final revised version of site- 8/5

Written Project Proposal
In order to complete this proposal, you may want to do some additional research with Writer Center staff and clients to help you better understand how to position and construct your site. You should also refer to your notes from the client's presentation, as well as your analyses of the current site and sites from other universities. With that in mind, write up a proposal (about 500 words) for what you hope to accomplish in your site. Please address and describe the following categories to the best of your ability. Remember that the more thinking and planning you do up front, the less backtracking and revising you'll have to do later.

  • purpose- what do you hope to accomplish with this site?
  • target audience- who are you trying to reach with this site? why? are there multiple audiences (for example, international students, undergraduates, graduates, etc.) how will you identify & meet their needs & interests?
  • media- what media do you plan to include & why?
  • description & site concept- what do you plan to do in this site? how do you plan to reach your audience?
  • rationale- what justifications can you offer for your design ideas & choices? (in other words, how can you convince your client that what you plan to do will help them to attain their goals?)

Screen-based Design Mockups
The purpose of doing multiple on-screen mockups is so that you can explore how different approaches and ideas might begin to work in a digital context. Often times, what seems like it will work fine on paper does not translate well on screen either aesthetically or functionally. Also, when working with clients, they will want to see several options before giving the OK to continue development. This is an extremely important step because without approval here, you may get to the end of the design and development process only to find that your client is not happy with the entire site. You will present these mockups to each other (standing in as clients) to receive feedback and insights that are often overlooked when you are immersed in a project.

Pitch Presentations
The purpose of giving a Pitch Presentation is to help you prepare for the process of presenting initial design ideas to a client. During such meetings, your role is to provide the client with a limited variety of design options so as to begin narrowing in on the design and features that will best accomplish the goals and interests of the client. At this time, you also give a rationale for your design choices. You want to facilitate as specific feedback as possible, while also listening sincerely to their concerns and suggestions. Although I would prefer all members of your group to participate in some way in these presentations, you may choose to designate a certain member or members to work as sales representatives if others in the group also have specific roles within the development team.

First (Alpha) Version of Working Site
On this day, your site should be online (though not linked to anywhere else except your class page) and fully functioning. This will be a chance for you to observe others as they use your navigation and to solicit their feedback on your overall design and content. This stage of usability testing is often called alpha testing (most sites and applications go through a later round of beta testing when it is more complete and nearly finished). Your objective is to hear critiques and suggestions while there is still time to revise your approach and fix errors and glitches. Although your navigation should be fully operational so that users can get to all pages in your site, the project does not have to be completely finished (an impossibility in web design anyway) on this day.

Final Presentations
This will be an opportunity to show off all of your hard work and to celebrate your accomplishments. On this day, your site should be completely finished so that the rest of the class can see it in all of its glory. Your presentation should include a walk-through of the site, as well as a discussion of your design process and the choices you had to make along the way.

Links to Final Projects