Semester 2, 20 credits. Course organiser: John Lee
This course introduces the challenges of setting up a web site integrating interaction with databases, web services and other technologies that are common to many creative, as well as commercial, applications. The lessons learnt will hold good in e-commerce and many other areas of digital design practice. The course is directed particularly to the technical aspects of design for the web; a parallel treatment of social and legal issues involved in the commercial practice of digital design and e-commerce is developed in CMSE11164 Informatics Entrepreneurship & Digital Marketplace. We focus on the topic of web-site design because of its centrality: contemporary digital design practitioners will normally exploit the web for communication and presentation, whatever their primary focus. Practical activity will centre around what would be required for the development of the system designed, with some emphasis on its usability for the target audience.
- Appraisal of the main issues involved in setting up a sophisticated web-based system.
- Appraisal of tools, techniques and issues in deploying online databases and data-related services.
- Skills in authoring interactive web sites.
- Understanding of iterative design and its relationship with evaluation.
- Ability to translate adventurous design ideas into a plausible product.
Web database Alpha prototype (50%) 2. Web database Beta prototype (50%). Submissions should be accompanied by an explanatory text of up to 750 words (on a page unobtrusively linked to the front page of the site).
Criteria for Assessment
- Degree of innovation and creativity in the design proposal.
- Consideration given to usability issues and use of evaluation in design.
- Consideration given to viability (commercial or otherwise, as appropriate) of the design.
- Creative deviation from standard solutions.
- Technical competence in the use of the tools.
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.