Web design

The article, Understanding Web Design by Jeffrey Zeldman sounded like an angry blog entry. It began by criticizing those who are supposed to understand and teach web design, but don’t seem to understand the web, let alone web design. I found this article hard to follow and often felt like I was reading Zeldman’s complaints about co-workers, managers, journalists, and so on, rather than reading an informative article. One paragraph did give a definition of web design and there were some links to other information, but overall I thought this article went nowhere. As I was reading it, I was wondering, what is the point?

John Allsopp’s A Dao of Web Design was insightful and much easier to understand. It provided a new perspective on web design. Instead of focusing on all of the web’s limitations, he encouraged designers to embrace the differences and stop trying to “control” all of the variables of a website. He described it as adaptive web design. No matter how much we want it all to be “just so”, there will always be factors beyond our control when others view our websites on different browsers , so we as designers need to adapt, as well. Break away from old “rituals” that worked in print, but aren’t necessary for the web. We need to design our sites to the best of our abilities to serve the needs of the users and then step back and let it go.

Shepard Fairey and appropriation

According to Wikipedia, “appropriation in art is the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them.” During the 2008 presidential election, Graphic Designer and Illustrator, Shepard Fairey created a poster of Barack Obama that became well-known as the Hope poster. Apparently, the image Fairey used as a source for his poster was a photograph taken by Mannie Garcia. Garcia worked for the Associated Press and took the photo while on assignment for his employer, so legally the AP owned the rights to the photograph. Fairey failed to acknowledge Garcia’s photo as his “inspiration” for his poster or request permission from the photographer, Garcia, or the rightful owner, the Associated Press. For several years now, Fairey has been in a legal battle with the Associated Press over whether his rendition of the photo was covered under “fair use” and therefore, was permissible by law. Fairey claimed to have used another photo of Obama with George Clooney as his source material and to have made substantle changes to it, however he later changed his story and admitted to using the photo the AP accused him of using for his image of Obama. The case finally concluded in 2012, with Fairey being ordered to pay a large fine, do community service, and serve a probationary sentence. The kicker of this story is, Fairey has threatened to sue artists for appropriating his work.

More recently, he was attacked in Denmark for a mural he made to commemorate a youth house that was no longer standing. Fairey thinks it was all just a big misunderstanding in regards to the artwork, because the mural was vandalized within a short time of going on display.

I completely understand being inspired by others’ artwork and wanting to build on it or create a different version of it, so I see nothing wrong with doing so, as long as you get permission. I can see both sides of this, because I have a lot of good photographs that I have taken and I wouldn’t want someone to use without my permission or acknowledgement of me as the original artist. I think Fairey could have easily avoided all of his legal troubles by simply requesting to use the photograph as the source for his poster. It leads me to believe that he thinks/thought the rules don’t/didn’t apply to him, for him to so blatantly copy someone else’s art. It still wouldn’t be right or legal if he was an unknown artist, but it may have gone unnoticed if his work weren’t out there in such a public way. It doesn’t get much bigger or public than a presidential election.

SWOT Analysis for Stove restaurant

1.  SWOT Analysis:

The internal strengths of Stove restaurant are: The chef focuses on preparing fresh, healthy, in-season food by growing his own produce and herbs, along with making his own sausage and curing his own hams for his dishes. In addition, he purchases fresh produce from local farmers. He also buys cheese, seafood, and meat from local farmers and fishermen. The grits he prepares are purchased from a lady in Northern Mississippi, who gets them from farmers who grow heirloom corn, not the genetically modified corn produced by Monsanto. The chef/owner is from Mississippi and many of his dishes give new twists to traditional Southern recipes. They are made from scratch by a chef trained in the culinary arts. The restaurant also has an extensive wine list. The small size (ten or 11 tables) of the restaurant allows the chef/owner and staff to focus on the quality of the food and service rather than cooking for and serving a large number of customers. There is a lounge area that can accommodate a slightly larger party.

The internal weaknesses of the business are: The restaurant has limited days and hours, because they are a small restaurant, not part of a restaurant chain. People must have reservations for dinner and these cannot be made online. There are only two time frames to choose from when making reservations, the 5-6:30 timeframe or 8:00-9:00pm or until 10:00pm on weekends.  The restaurant is small, so it can only accomodate ten tables worth of guests. It is also not family friendly as far as children go, as there are no highchairs or booster seats or a kids’ menu. I may be mistaken, but judging by all that is going on with the website, I would assume that the chef/owner is disorganized and/or possibly have too many things on his plate.

The external opportunities for the business are: They are located near the Atlantic coast and can attract tourists who come to the area on vacation. An abundant supply of fresh seafood and local produce due to their location. The owner creates his own artwork in his down time and has/had some of his pieces in a Virginia art gallery; that could help draw new customers in or lead to opportunities for catering art shows.

The external threats for the business are: Other seafood restaurants in the area could draw diners away from Stove. Areas of concern could be base closures in the Hampton Roads area, shipyard layoffs, crime rate of the surrounding area of Portsmouth, and anything that would effect the supply of fresh local seafood, meat, and produce.

2. Competitive Analysis

Who is the competition? List URLs and justification for your answers.  Some of Stove competitors are: Lobscouser, Cafe Europa, Brutti’s, and Foggy Point Bar and Grill. I chose each of these for different reasons such as  dining style, type of cuisine, location of restaurant, and/or pricing.

What is the competition doing well? What is the competition not doing well? Lobscouser: It is located in Olde Towne Portsmouth. As the name implies, it is a seafood restaurant. Their website states “our goal was to create a fine dining experience without the high pricing thereby giving both locals and visitors a place to eat or a place to dine..a place for a quick lunch or a leisurely dining experience.”After looking at their menus, their prices do seem quite reasonable for chicken, seafood, and steak entrees ranging from $5.50 to $9.99 for lunch to $10.99 to $24.99 for dinner. Having never eaten there, I can’t personally comment on the quality or flavor of the food or the customer service, however reviews on urbanspoon were mixed when it came to the food, but practically all of the comments about the decor, smell of the restaurant, and the service were less than favorable.

Cafe Europa: Located in Olde Towne Portsmouth, as well, Cafe Europa is known as a fine dining restaurant. They serve Mediterranean cuisine, however they also serve seafood dishes such as lobster, scallops, and shrimp. Lunch entrees range from $10.95 to $14.95 while dinner entree prices range from  $15.75 to $24.95.  There were 212 reviews on urbanspoon  and the comments were extremely favorable. Diners commented on the beautiful decor inside the restaurant, the excellent customer service from the teams of servers, and the spectacular food, drinks, and desserts. The only negative feedback was in regards to the close proximity of the tables to one another and the high noise level due to that fact. A couple of reviews mentioned the pace of the meal reflecting a European style, which means you purchase your table for the evening, so the point is to enjoy a leisurely meal with your dinner companions. This means diners must plan for a longer evening out than most traditional American restaurants. Cafe Europa has a good wine selection to compliment their meals.

Brutti’s:  Just around the corner from the VAC, in Olde Towne Portsmouth, is Brutti’s, which serves American and European inspired cuisine, but also serves a number of seafood dishes. They are rated on urbanspoon as one of the higher priced restaurants in Portsmouth, along with Stove and Cafe Europa. From the pictures on Brutti’s website, as well as the comments on urban spoon, the interior seems nicely decorated. Slow customer service seems to be their downfall based on online reviews. They require reservations, but these can be set up online on their user friendly website. They also have local comedy on friday nights, 20% off every Tuesday for military, vets, and first responders. In addition, they have have a full service catering business, which is actually how Brutti’s began in 1993. They have a kid’s menu, a large variety of cuisine on the menu, an outdoor patio area, and they serve Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner. Some review spoke highly of their weekend breakfast buffet even though most admitted it was pricey, while others complained about the food on the buffet being cold and having set out too long.

Foggy Point Bar and Grill:  It is located inside the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel and Conference Center in Olde Towne Portsmouth, so right off the bat, that is the one of the biggest differences between it and Stove.  It is also one of higher priced restaurants in Olde  Towne Portsmouth. It also has a nice view of the water outside. The site states that it is fine dining, yet has a casual dress code. From the pictures on the website, it looks tastefully decorated and the hotel provides many amenities along with boardrooms, ballrooms, and conference rooms. There were only four reviews on urbanspoon, two of which were very positive about the food, one complained about the waitress, and the other two were unavailable. It is in a prime location for some sight seeing and local annual events nearby.

3. Goals :                                                                                                                                         What are the goals for your redesign? Above all else, the first goal is to provide a simple, clear, organized structure for the redesign of Stove’s website so that site users can find the information they seek without becoming overwhelmed by too much information. Second, I think it is important that the unique style of the restaurant, chef, and his goal of creating and serving new versions of traditional Southern dishes with fresh, healthy ingredients for his customers shine through when a user visits Stove’s website.

What is the history of the restaurant?  Stove has a relatively short history. It has been open for about 6-7 years, though the chef/owner ran another fine dining restaurant before opening Stove.

What is the communication goal for the site?      Stove’s website needs to communicate relevant information about the restaurant in a clear, simple format. The communication goal for Stove’s website is to provide current information that website users need to make an informed decision about whether they would like to dine there or not.

What is the desired action for a user?  The desired action for a user is to be able to navigate Stove’s website easily, so they can find the information they are searching for and hopefully want to come try out the restaurant.

4. User Profile

Who is the target audience? They cater more to couples and small groups of middle-age to older people, due to the menu items and lack of kid’s menu and seating.  Their prices are high, so that would it would not necessarily be affordable to younger people or those with limited financial resources.

List characteristics of a hypothetical user: Characteristics of a hypothetical user would be adventurous, fun, middle-age to slightly older, distinguished palette yet open to new tastes, financially stable, laid back, casual, and perhaps maybe even a little quirky like the chef.

Describe the environment of an average user: 

Ask someone that you know in the target market to interact with the site and record how they feel about the site?  The person I spoke with in the target market for Stove said the site left him feeling confused. He said the website felt like it was designed to entertain the chef’s family and friends,rather than to attract new customers or even truly serve customers information. When presented with so many pages of information and links to other websites with information, he stated that the current site made him feel like the designer of it is wasting his time with a bunch of useless information that should be put on a personal site or blog, not on a business’ website.

5. Site Map/Diagram the existing pages

Stove sitemap

6. Brand

What are the brand attributes?  Stove is a quirky, quaint, small,one of a kind restaurant. Adjectives that I think of to describe the restaurant based on it’s website content and pictures are fresh, local, sort of southern comfort food with a new take, and definitely unique.

Do you imagine that you will need to redesign the brand mark?  Stove has no brand mark or logo, as far as I can see from the website, so I do anticipate needing to design one. From the name of the restaurant, Stove in some fashion seems to be the obvious choice.

What is the brand promise?  My take on Stove’s promise is that you will always get fresh, in-season, locally purchased ingredients to prepare your meal and it will be served in a quaint, quirky atmosphere by waitstaff who are focused on quality service. It’s Southern style cooking with a the chef’s new flair added to it.

What is brand mission?   The brand promise is to serve fresh, healthy meals (seafood and southern style with a unique twist) with ingredients purchased from mostly local farmers and fishermen in a quaint casual environment.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design seems necessary for the variety of devices that people are currently using to access the web. Smartphones, tablets, even handheld gaming devices can and are being used like mini computers to read articles, access e-mail, pay bills, get directions, watch videos, and whole slew of other things. To continue to design websites that only cater to PCs is to live in a state of denial and to potentially turn away customers which can effect a business’ growth. In Ethan Marcotte’s article, Responsive Web Design, he says “mobile browsing is expected to outpace desktop-based access within three to five years. We’ve already reached the three year point, as that article was published in May of 2010, and we are seeing statistics that back up that quote.  A more recent piece by Pete Cashmore, Why 2013 is the Year of Responsive Web Design,  links to another article that provides statistics that “2012 has been a very unusual year in the PC market. For the first time since 2001, PC sales are projected to be lower than they were in the previous year.” In addition, Cashmore notes that ” tablet sales are expected to exceed 100 million this year. Their sales numbers may top notebooks next year.  Smartphones, of course, are also a hot commodity — according to Nielsen, the majority of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones, not feature phones.” Web design needs to keep in step with technology and design for the needs of these users, which obviously is not a minority and are not going away anytime soon.

Ethan Marcotte, as well as Pete Cashmore agree that a combination of media queries, fluid grids, and flexible images are three necessary elements for responsive web design, so browser size can be detected and the website adjust it’s layout, content, and images for the size of the screen viewing the material. The Mashable website is a perfect example of responsive web design, as the layout of the site adjusts as you resize your browser window.

When reading Ethan Marcotte’s writing, a couple of his statements seemed contradictory to me. First, he said, “…flexible designs make no assumptions about a browser window’s width, and adapt beautifully to devices that have portrait and landscape modes.”  Then, in the next sentence he says, “But no design, fixed or fluid, scales seamlessly beyond the context for which it was originally intended.” Lastly, he tells us that, “In short, our flexible design works well enough in the desktop-centric context for which it was designed, but isn’t optimized to extend far beyond that.” I thought he told us that no certain browser size was assumed when the design was made, but then he said the design might have issues when a browser beyond the intended size render the content and then, oh yeah, it works best when viewed on a PC screen because that’s the browser size it was designed to be viewed on. What? Each statement makes senses to me, but the three together don’t quite support one another. Nonetheless, I think I understood the article, for the most part.

I must admit, responsive web design is new to me. I had never heard of it before taking a class in Interactive Design. Since I’m in the minority, one who doesn’t own a Smartphone or tablet, responsive design wasn’t an issue I’d encountered in my daily life, but I can definitely see why it is an issue for those who do use those browsing devices on a regular basis. I find it fascinating that websites can be designed to detect the browser size and adjust accordingly.

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My thoughts on The Most Valuable Social Network

Sharing a post you’ve seen on Facebook is nothing unusual, but sharing/donating the use of your Facebook page is unusual, but pure genius, I think. What a novel idea. Who knew you could even donate your newsfeed? I didn’t, until I read about The Most Valuable Social Network,  a program recently launched to help The Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC) get missing child alerts out quickly, by way of Canadians’ social networking news feeds.  When a missing child is reported, the MCSC posts the information to donators’ social sites, such as Facebook or Twitter. Actually, you can donate the use of more than one social media site, if you have multiple social networking accounts. The sole mission of The Missing Children Society is to search for and rescue missing children in Canada.  They are the only organization of their kind and they operate without financial assistance from the Canadian government. According to the article, more than 50,000 missing children are reported to their organization every year, so it would be no small task to fund the handling of that many searches. 

The fact that social media can cover so much ground so quickly makes it perfect for getting the word out when a child goes missing. We all know that those initial hours are the most critical and this puts information into people’s hands immediately after the authorities can post to donators’ newsfeeds. People can choose whether to receive alerts for the area where they live or for a broader range, such as nationally. On the site, it said that “once you join, alerts will be posted to your newsfeed four to five times a year.” I think, how could you NOT donate use of your social media site for such a good cause? It makes me wonder if we have organizations doing similar things in the United States.  

Personality in design

The very heart of emotional design is creating what feels like a personal experience or human interaction while performing an impersonal task, such as using a mobile app or navigating a website. I think it’s a great idea, because that’s what distinguishes one business, website, etc from another, just as it distinguishes one person from another. It’s refreshing in a day and age where things have become so impersonal and many times far removed from human contact and communication. To me, it seems like good customer service, like a friendly personable store clerk or waitress who welcomes you and makes an impression on you that results in you returning to that particular store or restaurant, because it was such a favorable experience.

Personas are used in emotional design to guide the designer or design team as they plan and create a website, mobile app, etc. It is their “typical user,” that they keep in mind as they design their product/service/website and then try to create a personality for their product/service/site that will appeal to that typical user. An image, a certain voice, and personality traits are a few of the major decisions to consider when creating a persona.

I’m not sure that I have a favorite website, but one that I have visited a number of times came to mind because of its personality, actually I should say, her personality. The persona of the website is a warm, welcoming, down to earth, city girl turned country gal, who shares her everyday life experiences via funny stories along with “how to” segments accompanied by lots of photographs to show every detail and make you feel as if you’re in on the action. My first visit to her website gave me the feeling that I was reading a friend’s letter and looking at a friend’s pictures.

Skeumorphic versus flat design

Skeumorphic design is based on items in the real world. A designer attempts to recreate an object, a clock, for example, and seeks to make it look true to life (3D) with shadows and highlights and such. Flat design, on the other hand, is much more simplistic. It does not attempt to make items appear 3 dimensional and true to life. For example, a simple flat envelope, might stand for mail. Flat designs are as their name suggests, flat. The goal is to convey meaning in a simple, clean, uncomplicated way.

Personally, I don’t have a preference for one design style over the other. The article by Austin Carr, explained well enough the differences between the two design styles, however didn’t provide enough explanation for why flat design was preferred over skeumorphic design. Some designers were quoted in the article who preferred flat design, but for them to just to say they found Apple’s visual references to real world items, like a wooden bookcase and a desktop calendar with leather binding at the top, confusing and unnecessary, didn’t mean much to me. In the second and third articles, however, explanations were given as to why flat design works better than skeumorphic design. The most compelling reasons that caused me to give more consideration to flat design  versus skeumorphic were that “it makes for speedier pages, cleaner code, and easier adaptability.” Another point, that having both flat and skeumorphic items in a design, as in the example in article two with the skeumorphic vault and the rest of the web page being flat design, is inconsistent and leads to the design not flowing because of such opposite design methods. I think in some cases the two can be combined and still create a cohesive design concept, but I’m sure there are also times when the two cannot be combined in a way that blends the two together in a way that looks and feels right. I think  that would just have to be decided on a case by case basis.

Is the web driving us mad?

This article cited a number of studies that indicate there are numerous unhealthy side effects of spending too much time on the internet and playing video games. Anxiety, depression, OCD, and/or ADHD seemed to be prevalent in many of the people studied who spent  a lot of hours engaged in these activities. Those findings didn’t surprise me, what did surprise me was the results of the study that found actual changes in the brain itself, just from moderate internet usage. In some cases, it seems unclear about cause and effect, for example, did the person spend more time on internet because they’re depressed or did they become depressed or more depressed due to their increased web or video game usage? Plus, there are so many other variables in life that could and most likely do play a part in a person’s anxiety, depression, OCD, etc. There are so many other variables in peoples’ lives to consider, how can researchers really be sure that the effects only come from peoples’ online usage?

I believe people can become addicted to just about anything, so I don’t discount the correlations found in the research, but I think there might be more to the stories than the research shows, like family history of mental illness or addiction, how a person was raised, etc.

For me personally, the internet is mostly a tool for me to use to get things done. I pay bills and bank online, communicate via e-mail and Facebook, and use it to look things up when needed. There are times, I have to admit, that I’ve wasted time on Facebook when I could have been doing something more productive, but I also love the fact that I’ve been able to reconnect with people that I probably never would have been able to otherwise.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Without a doubt, I would choose Motion/Video Editor as a future job. The job description on the AIGI site reads “responsible for organizing and executing post-production of motion-based imagery and design projects and for finalizing the presentation of material to clients.” My decision to choose this job is based on the knowledge and experience I gained last semester in Craig Nilsen’s Video Techniques class. We learned the basics of shooting video and spent a great deal of time editing videos. In order to learn the ins and outs of the editing software, he provided the video and audio clips for our first three projects and taught us how to essentially “cut” the clips into pieces and stitch bits of those pieces together to create something new, be it a commercial or a story. Our last three projects required us to create our own music video, documentary, and a short narrative film. These were challenging projects that required planning ahead and attention to details. The goal when editing each project was to combine the footage in a way that made sense, told a story, and showed different interesting camera angles, for example, wide angle shots mixed with close ups.  In addition, music of our choosing needed to be added in some scenes to set the tone and complement the story. The editing was very time intensive and sometimes extremely repetitive, in order to make the editing appear seamless. Many times, I watched video clips frame by individual frame to match up actor’s head and body movements or played the music or actors voices slowly to find the “perfect” edit point. It was a tedious process, but one I enjoyed thoroughly. I think, when you spend hours day after day working on a project and it doesn’t feel like work, but is enjoyable to you, then you’ve found what you’re meant to do.