Monday, January 30, 2012

[info arch] website analysis + concept ideas

sam and i worked together to analyze our sections of the us today newspaper – both the print version as well as the website. here are some things we noticed with the web specifically:

  • customizable location/interests when becoming a member
  • user can narrow down what they're looking for
  • ads are more custom to interests, where in print they're more custom to the section they're in
  • top picks, popular stories, etc.
  • social & user interaction - facebook, twitter, etc.
  • multiple navigations
  • exact time story was posted/updated
most of these are pretty positive aspects of the web; however, some of the problems that we recognized were the overwhelmingness of all the news articles that were available and how when viewing one, the website tries to link you to several others that are related or within the same section. you really miss out on that sense of knowing all/most the news as you do when reading the newspaper. there's no end point to the website. 

our next assignment was to start trying to come up with a few different concept ideas and to sketch out some wireframes illustrating those concepts. here are my three.

*social based - after talking these all over with some classmates and marty this morning, i've decided this is the concept i want to stick with. it's really focused on the social aspect, with the top featured story being next to an instant feed of what friends/people are saying about the story. marty suggested that i make it possible to select the types of people to chat with about the story, to make it more customizable for the visitor. the website would probably connect to facebook or something, and also has options to share news stories, star your favorites and view friends' shared news stories.

arrows - this concept focuses on the problem i talked about with being overwhelmed with all of the available news. to avoid this problem, the entire page goes one week at a time with the side arrows giving the viewer the option to go back a week or forward a week. each news story section also has the option to arrow through the news stories within that section. the viewer could hypothetically stay on one page to get all their news.

virtual newspaper - it was a tough decision between my social media concept and this one. this one is a mixture of the last concept (avoiding overwhelming stories) as well as helping viewers who aren't comfortable getting away from the printed newspaper.  it starts off explaining what process they're about to go through along with a progress bar towards the bottom. it takes the viewer through each section to select news stories they'd like to read about, and then converts them into a virtual newspaper. we talked about how this option could have a few different possibilites, for example instead of selecting stories, they could just select the sections they want to read about so it wouldn't be as overwhelming.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

[info arch] what i learned about web in 2011 reading response

after reading through these, i noticed many of them focused a lot on audience, interaction, and especially focusing on technological advances such as the ipad and other tablets. anywhoo, here's a few articles that i felt i found most interesting.

change is the only constant
i think adam parks makes a great statement when he says "always be ready to learn something new". as designers, or even web designers, we will never ever know it all. technology is rapidly advancing so fast, that's it's almost impossible to ever come out ahead. we just have to keep in tune with what's going on in the world and try to keep growing and learning with it.

tear down the cubical walls
i noticed that on this and a few other articles, designers made statements about how important it is to stay in tune with fellow designers and to not always work solo. as leslie states in her article all together now, web is people collaborating and learning together. and when working with even just one other person, you can learn so much. i think that's something designers need to strive for, even if it's just asking advice from one another.

know your audience
although this statement is sort of a given, especially when it comes to web design, i think adriana makes some really good points. she suggests things such as polls, or watching your web counter once you've changed your look to see how rapidly your views change. it could possibly also be that i'm in user experience now, and realizing how much work can go into getting to know your audience and how much of an advantage that really can be, even if it's just a general audience.

keep the faith, sweat the small stuff
ali made several good points in his (or her?) article. they really stressed how great the grid system is, which is pretty vital for good web design. they also stated that designing in vector is the smartest because with so many things that can view our websites these days, you never really know what screen resolution you're designing for. lastly, they point out that lack of typefaces is no excuse which is so true. these days, the web provides us with so many web font options.

Friday, January 27, 2012

[user] wiccan research

what is wicca?
in my research, i've found that most sites clearly state that the wiccan culture is not satanism or devil-worship. it's actually a very positive philosophy. what wiccans believe is in panentheism – seeing all things as part of God/dess, and seeing the Earth Herself as a living organism who everyone is a part of. rather than seeing god as "out there somewhere" they see God as a part of daily life.
wiccans are often active environmentalists and celebrate eight major holidays, the beginning and midpoint of each seasons. they also celebrate the phases of the moon. they see these rituals  as a way to attune with the cycles of nature.
wiccans do participate in magic and craft, using spells to focus their will on what they want to happen such as good fortune. however, they believe everything that they do comes back to them tripled, which is why they don't hex or curse others. 
 most wiccans accept reincarnation as fact based on personal experience. many claim that they remember past life or sense that their soul is recycled. all in all, they're only law is to enjoy life to the fullest, and remember to help everyone else enjoy it too. they're not out to preach or convince others into their culture, but they just ask for understanding and the freedom to practice as they choose.

Wicca is a religion based, in part, on ancient, northern European Pagan beliefs in a fertility Goddess and her consort, a horned God. Although the religion is a modern creation, some of its sources pre-date the Christian era by many centuries. Those who practiced the beliefs believed the connection to the divine could be found in nature. (
In the 1920s, an anthropologist by the name of Margaret Murray was studying reports made by the church during the Inquisition. These reports were the compiled confessions of “witches” or groups practicing these ancient Pagan rituals. The sheer amount of confessions led Murray to believe that there was an organized, underground group of practitioners during the middle ages spread throughout Europe. She labeled this the “Old Religion” and published her findings. (
Though it was later found that there was no fact in her organized Old Religion theory, during the 20s and after the publishing of her work, covens practicing this “Old Religion” began to spring up based on a synthesis of Murray’s findings and other new traditions that were springing up in the late 19th and early 20th century such as the Golden Dawn, a movement focused on the rituals of magick and alchemy. (
With the repeal of the Witchcraft Act of 1735 in Britain in 1951, the traditions grew rapidly, namely due to to the outspoken publishings of freemason Gerald Gardner. His teachings served as a foundation for the modern day Wiccan community.

  • most traditional symbol is the pentacle/pentagram - represents five elements of the earth: earth, air, water, fire and spirit
  • several other symbols based on items used in wiccan practice, things historically associated with wicca, symbols adopted by some witches, symbols of goddesses and gods
  • triple moon is a goddess symbol that represents the maiden, mother, and crone as the waxing, full  and waning moon. often worn by high priestesses

where names come from
wiccan names are used to express who wiccans really are through a sacred name usually known only to themselves and their coven. they believe these names are with them at birth, but they may just need guidance to rediscover it by making the decision to have it revealed to them. to do so, they try to make a conscious effort to clear their mind/meditate and look inside at their true qualities within their true inner selves.
they also work to make note of all things that catch their attention and believe that their "spirit guides" will help them to find it. after they think they've discovered a name, they ask their closest friends or members of their coven their views on the wiccan name, and they will see if the name seems to fit. they believe that keeping this name within their coven and immediate friends with concentrate the effect of the magic and increase it's power. they believe the discovery of these names will reinvigorate their lives, bring them closer to their chosen deity and will be a source of unique strength through their life.
The Wheel of the Year

each year wiccans celebrate the changing seasons – the coming of light and the height of the harvest and the dark days when the veil is thin. these days are steeped in ritual, deeply magical and each holds it's own meanings to those of the pagan religions.
each holiday has it's own celebratory events based on a wheel that has the 8 holidays. the cardinal directions and their elements are called forth, ritual magic is invoked, and from there the seasonal celebrations commence. celebrations are done in different ways for each season. once the celebrations wind down, the quarters are thanked and released, and everyone is free to go in perfect love and perfect peace. 

wicca in kc
One of the fastest growing underground religions in the US.Wicca certainly has a presence in KC. Notably, a fairly well organized coven under the name of Luna Lushede who meet regularly to consecrate the changing seasons and  celestial events. These rituals are usually held in a small grove in Raytown, or in the upstairs of a new age shop called Aquarius on 39th. The events usually consist of traditional practices, as well as a pot-luck and communal festivities. The high priest of this particular coven goes by the name of Thorgo. There is also a high priestess, but she seems to wish to remain publicly anonymous. (
Other sites, such as the Kansas City Witches Meetup Group serves as a sort of online Wiccan social network in KC. It serves as a place to organize events, meet other like-minded folks, and share news and updates. ( 


Thursday, January 26, 2012

[user] reading notes

designing for interaction: design research

what is design research?

  • design research: act of investigating, through various means, a product's or service's potential of existing users and the context of use - helps designers understand emotional, cultural, and aesthetic context 
  • qualitative: based on smaller, targeted sample sizes - concerned with how and why questions
  • quantative: based on large, random, stastically-significant sample sizes - answers what questions - often numerical and made into models and statistics
  • most design research is qualitative 
why bother with design research?
  • if designers create a product based on instinct rather than research, they could very possibly find all their work and time wasted when the outcome fails to attract/impress the desired audience
  • especially helpful when targeting specific types of users
  • gives designers empathy with users - better understanding of things that would frustrate, embarrass, confuse, etc. 
  • research can also inspire
research planning
  • who you're going to research, what you're trying to find out and methods to find out
  • hunt statement: a tool for narrowing down what the design is researching and why - i am going to research x so that i can do y. 
  • cost and time
    • myth: design research is expensive and time consuming. it is time and money well spent.
    • will work with as little as notebooks, camera, pens, and at least two people who can trade off interviewing and moderating 
    • time must be set aside not only for doing the research, but recruiting subjects
    • most design research takes from a week to two months 
  • recruting
    • find the right subjects by determining who you need ahead of time - look at characteristics including behavioral criteria and basics
    • diversity is essential, but avoid unconscious bias
    • about 4-6 subjects per major characteristic
    • create a screener to help make sure you're getting the right people - ask specific questions
    • recruiting can take as much time as the research itself, especially if the subjects are difficult to find
  • moderator script
    • guides the person/people running the research on what to say and in what order
    • sometimes called discussion guides or protocols
    • also contains instructions to person conducting research
    • avoid yes/no questions, ask how, what and why questions
    • avoid leading questions (how good is this product?)
conducting design research
  • three main rules by anthropologist rick e. robinson:
    • you go to them: don't base research off someone else's research or make subjects come to them in an artificial testing environment
    • you talk to them: don't just read or ask about subjects, have subjects tell story in their own manner to learn more
    • you write stuff down: don't depend just on memory
  • ethical research
    • get informed consent from the subjects
    • explain the risks and benefits of the study
    • respect the subjects' privacy
    • pay subjects for their time
    • if asked, provide data and research results to subjects
what to look for and how to record it
  • focus on things truly essential - namely, specific activities, environment, interactions
  • patterns: watch for patterns in behavior, stories, responses
  • phenomena - unusual behaviors/methods of working
  • see/hear it once - phenomenon; twice - coincidence or pattern emerging; three times - pattern
  • field notes
    • write down observations and key phrases
    • notebooks > laptops or mobile devices - less distracting
    • start by recording name of person doing research and where it's taking place
    • leave out personal opinions of subjects, observed activities, or overheard conversations - unprofessional and bad research
    • do jot down thoughts and feelings 
    • also write down patterns, quotes, annotated sketches, steps and context of any activities
    • take still pictures when and where feasible - capture subject and environment
    • take note of captions with pictures
research methods
  • observations
    • fly on the wall - unobtrusively observe
    • shadowing - follow subject as they go about routines
    • contextual inquiry - shadowing and asking questions about behaviors
    • undercover agent - observing while posing as someone normal in their environment
    • don't dress to impress, blend in with the environment. bring props if necessary.
    • observe without being too noticeable 
    • camera phones are good for inconspicuously snapping photos
  • interviews
    • directed storytelling - ask subjects to tell stories or about moments
    • unfocus group - assembling a group of experts in a field to explore the subject from different viewpoints
    • role playing - role playing different scenarios can draw out emotions and attitudes 
    • extreme-user interviews - designer interviews people on the outer edge of subject matter
    • desk/purse/briefcase tour - tour of desks or contents in purses or briefcases
    • keep an open and nonjudgemental mindset
  • activities
    • collaging - have subjects make collage related to product or service being researched
    • modeling - use crafts to have designers design their version of product
    • draw your experience - have them draw out experience with product/service
    • have them explain choices when finished
  • self-reporting
    • journals
    • beeper studies - subjects wear beeper and when it goes off, subjects record what they're doing at the time
    • photo/video journals
final research needs to be analyzed and turned into structured findings

design research
  • very few mass movements exist anymore - diverse world
ethnography and critical design practice
  • anthropology: study of human behavior - how people experience and make sense of what they themselves and others do
  • culture: the practices, artifacts, sensibilities and ideas that constitute and inform our everyday lives
    • religious beliefs, body piercings, how we navigate an interface, etc.
    • what is natural to us - behaviors, feelings, thoughts, ways of doing, communicating, understanding
  • situatedness: multiple ways people consume and integrate designed artifacts into their lives through interaction and through their experience creates understanding
  • how products are experienced or interpreted
  • designed artifacts are "materialized ideologies"
  • visual vs. verbal
  • quantitative vs. qualitative
  • some research tools include:
    • statistical data collection
    • surveys and questionnaires, linguistic data collection
    • oral histories, group interviews
    • passive observation, participant observation,videotaping and photography

visual communication
  • culture:
    • process of society's intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic develpment
    • particular way of life of a people period or group
    • works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activities
  • popular culture: folk or indigenous culture today, something innocent and 'authentic' that was under threat from modernity
  • although culture appears to always be innovation and keeping consumers happy, critics identify a cycle of never-ending desire or fulfillment 
  • people being satisfied are not consumers, but manufacturers, their shareholders, media and the government 
  • consumption - desire - disillusionment
  • subculture: any minority group with a shared set of beliefs, values or lifestyle that resists the dominant culture
    • tends to have less visibly intellectual basis
    • spontaneous reaction and express itself by reinterpreting symbols of that culture
    • expression and identity - clothes, music, language
    • respect for an internal group of hierarchy, use of rituals
    • most important twentieth century subcultures: mods, rockers, teddy boys, skinheads
    • identity evolves over time
    • must always relocate it back to its context as an expression of cultural negotiation between the group and the dominant culture in a given moment
  • counter-culture: motivated by guiding philosophy
    • based around a conscious questioning of the values of the dominant culture
    • represented by a more coherent political position that places them outside dominant culture
    • example: hippie movement

Monday, January 23, 2012

[info arch] reading responses

10 New Year's  Resolutions for Designers - 

although i've never been too good at making new year's resolutions and sticking with/remembering them, i found quite a few on this website that definitely could be useful for me to work on. some that i think would be the most beneficial personally include:

  • stop trying to save bad work - i'm so bad with this. i guess you could call me a document horder. i hate to watch all my time and progress go down the drain, and i'm so afraid that if i don't save it then i'll end up needing it. and more than often i end up getting stuck. i have learned, though, to save the document just in case, and then start a new one. but there's probably still plenty of room for improvement. 
  • learn to make mistakes faster - i definitely need to learn to start with some quick rough drafts rather than trying to perfect everything within my first attempt or two. i would save so much time.
  • learn to write - it's not necessarily that i can't write, but often i get so caught up in design that writing seems like such a chore. i end up either deciding to just use place holder text until i absolutely have to write, or do a fast, poor job and tell myself i'll fix it later. i agree though that this is a great skill to have with design, so i should probably start polishing it...and not being so lazy.
  • get comfortable arguing - with certain projects/people, i stand my ground pretty well. but if i feel the least bit intimidated or unsure about my work, then i find myself just going "okay", "yeah", "good idea" to peoples recommendations of improvement. i need to work on being more confident in my work and displaying that confidence which will likely present my projects even better.
Web Design is 95% Typography - 

i found this reading pretty interesting, especially because i think that us designers really do get caught up trying to find the perfect typeface when designing things - even websites. in my previous web design classes where we were actually building websites, i know how frustrated i get when my awesome typeface wouldn't work on another platform, so i can definitely relate. i didn't really notice how many effective websites with good design can get by with the simplest typefaces.