Learning Dreamweaver

Since starting the website design assignment for TW5212, I have been very anxious about whether or not I could learn enough about using Dreamweaver to create even a basic site. Honestly, it seemed (and seems) very ‘fiddly’ to me, and the whole CSS system is annoying, though I can see how eventually it would become a useful system once mastered.
The way I approached this assignment was basically to write the content for each of my 10 pages in Microsoft Word, then when I had it all written, images and media sourced, I would worry about the technical side. However, I finished this over a week ago and am still trying to get to grips with Dreamweaver. Despite our lab sheets and information on the net, I just couldn’t find a good starting point for myself, all the different approaches confused me, the new terminologies, html code, servers, root folders-all new to me and really frustrating.
These were some ofthe initial things I found confusing when starting Dreamweaver:

Where are all the files stored? What is the difference between the folders (root, site etc)?
Why can I preview my pages in the browser sometimes, and other times all I can see is code? (still don’t understand that actaully…)
How do I manipulate divs?
Is it better to use a template, make my own template, use frames as a template or use embedded templates?
Do I have to create a CSS for EVERY bit of text I write?

Those were my initial problems, but I more or less have gotten over those now (and other ones have developed). The past few days I have definitely made progress, I have spent days trying to get to grips with it and finally have maybe half of my site done. Whereas I began by trying to use embedded templates, I eventually found that creating my own template using divs was the easiest way for me to begin. Once I got my head around ‘creating editable regions’ and FINALLY became comfortable the css system, I feel a litle better. I still have to work on some sort of navigation system, and I’m finding inserting images slightly dodgy but hopefully I’ll figure it out.

Here is a youtube tutorial video I found helpful as it shows how to create pages from templates you have created yourself;

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WordPress V. Dreamweaver

We have decided to use wordpress to develop our site instead of dreamweaver. this is based on one team members really positive experience with using wordpress to build a website.

I have not used wordpress for this, nor have I really gone beyond lab sheets on Dreamweaver as yet. So, I wonder which is better?

Of course, WordPress is a Content Management System whereas Dreamweaver is a WYSIWYG Website Development Tool, but does that make a real difference for the purposes of this project?

With wordpress you have to write your own code but Dreamweaver does this for you.
Wordpress seems a lot easier to grasp from a beginners point of view and has so many plug-ins readily available (though you would be limited creatively in terms of going outside the realm of what these would allow).
Dreamweaver certainly would allow for more creativity in this way, but is that necessary for this project??

Visual Aesthetics In User Interface-How Important Is It?

Now that our team has had a couple of meetings, we are really getting down to the specifics of our website design concept. As per the assignment brief and project specifications, the website clearly must have a high level of usability and accessibility from the users perspective and key aims centre on encouraging user participation and interaction. Clearly then , when attempting to garner interest and motivation within the average citizen of which diverse demographics are a given, visual appeal and accessibility are two extremely important factors.

While accessibility in content can be achieved through writing style and language, what about visual appeal? In my opinion, the average person (particularly the younger population) are not going to be generally interested unless the content is presented in the most visually dynamic and interesting way possible.

In an article on Visual Decision Making, “research shows that website users are powerfully influenced by aesthetics, and that positive perceptions of order, beauty, novelty, and creativity increase the user’s confidence in a site’s trustworthiness and usability. Recent design writing and interface research illustrate how visual design and user research can work together to create better user experiences on the web: experiences that balance the practicalities of navigation with aesthetic interfaces that delight the eye and brain. In short: there’s lots of evidence that beauty enhances usability” (Lynch 2009).

I think that for this particular project visual aesthetics are a vital element.

For full article see: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/visual-decision-making/visual%20appeal

Group Website Assignment – Getting Started

Our group assignment for the ‘design and development of the Ennis Hub Plan sub-site’ is quite a challenging one in my opinion. Not only do we have to propose, design and develop a website from scratch (first time for a lot of us even using Dreamweaver), but we have to also collaborate to do this, which can cause problems within itself.

From my Virtual Team experience, I will be taking what I learned from that in order to help me through this project. (see previous blog post-what I gained from the virtual team project).

Since we have 2 part-time students on our team, face-to-face meetings where all are present will be difficult if not impossible. After our first meeting today, or just 3 of us, we immediately discussed our strengths, weaknesses and preferred areas of work in relation to the project, something we had not done on my virtual team though i now know this is essential.

So, in order to facilitate team communication and cohesiveness and to maintain some sort of structural plan for everyone to follow, I am investigating design and developmental models that we could possibly adapt to our project and follow. I have come across one already that is quite basic and can be applied really to any sort of decision-making process. Though it is pretty obvious and not specific to web development, I think may work as an effective mental checklist which we could follow and would easily adapt into our team.

The model is DODAR, which stands for DIAGNOSE, OPTIONS, DECIDE, ASSIGN, REVIEW (see fhttp://www.elsterama.com/decision-making-models-web-development for a brief guide to this and other web design decision-making models). It captures the 5 key areas of any decision-making process. By using every stage of this process in sequence to confirm evaluations, assumptions and decisions team members before moving onto the next stage, everyone is kept on the same page.

In relation to this specific project, the DODAR model could be adapted as follows;

1. DIAGNOSE  What needs to be done and why? What are the needs and purposes of the Ennis Hub Plan sub-site? What are the requirements of the client (practicum team)?

2. OPTIONS What are the available options to us to meet these needs? Dreamweaver is a requirement here, but what other applications or plugins are available to us?

3. DECIDE Make decisions that the group has agreed upon, about all the available options.

4. ASSIGN Breakdown of team roles and assigning tasks. Who will write the content? Who will source images? Who will design the interface? etc etc

5. REVIEW An immediate analysis of the process so far. Is everyone happy with the decisions and tasks laid out? Is everyone of the same understanding? After this, deadlines and regualr reviews for ongoing targets must be set up. For example, deadline for finalising proposal, deadline for writing content, arrange a time for another group meeting to discuss progression and address unforseen problems.

There are many other basic models available and all fall under different categories such as;