You are to develop a prototype web site that offers some interactive service or activity to an identifiable constituency of users. The site may be intended to provide a resource base for designers, an information source for the public or specialists in some area, a system for selling digital or other products, a business service, a way to create and foster an online community or forum, etc. The site should incorporate the following capabilities: a database of resources (any or all of: sound, images, movies, text, models, programs, etc.), an interactive interface, streaming sound and/or video. The site may also enable you to present a professional web presence in order to: gain work (commissions); promote good design in its various facets; and provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of a live project, such as an installation design. It is possible, but not required, that the web site is put forward as a commercial proposition, ie that your project assumes an income stream. Possible income sources include: revenue from advertising and registration, and the sale of digital goods (MP3 files, desktop patterns, computer games, mobile phone ring tones and opening screens, gift services, electronic greeting cards, text documents, software, applets, advice, access to a directory service, online tutorials and teaching materials). The site could be for the brokerage of products and services by others. The site will be underpinned by one or more web databases, which should enable data to be added to and deleted online, and a simple search mechanism. Other data sources, such as APIs of external providers, may also be used. You will work in a group: each group member will create an independently identifiable component or aspect. You are to pursue an iterative design methodology, to the extent that you will develop an Alpha prototype which will be subjected to a simple usability evaluation, leading to principled reworking and a Beta prototype. The Beta prototype will of course still be less than a fully-functioning commercial system.
Templates will be provided to enable you to assemble various components of the resource base. You will have access to a series of databases with standard fields to take text, numbers, and URLs; and a toolbox of APIs. The databases will be used for storing information on resources, products, registrants, members, transactions, etc. You will design web-based forms and displays for entering, extracting and displaying these data. The system is to be robust enough for demonstration purposes, and conform to appropriate usability considerations.
During this alpha and beta development phase your project is to function as a completely open system, ie, no registration or password shall be required to view the site content, or for site management. You can speculate on what kind of security might be appropriate for your site, and what levels of access might be provided, but do not develop that aspect of your project for the alpha and beta stage. There are several reasons for placing this constraint on your project work for this course:
• your colleagues and teachers need to be able to rapidly explore the full functionality of your system without being constrained by registration, logins and/or passwords;
• the world-readability of web-based software presents interesting challenges and opportunities that are obscured by registration. Consider user-centred security protocols and soft-security measures if needed. How important is it to secure your site in any case?
What are the risks?;
• there are interesting techniques for customising the user’s environment, through the use of session variables and cookies that it is good to learn about;
• the preservation of open access, open source and creative commons, are key in the Internet gift society.