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Pitons and Paralysis

02 Apr

This week’s readings on design were surprisingly helpful. Steve Krug’s book, although written for a web designer (with, you know, design training), was a real help. I have a lot of visual noise, the purpose of my site isn’t clear, and it really doesn’t flow well. I need to work on my architecture. The Williams excerpt, however, only convinced me further of the steepness of my learning curve. (I’m starting to think it’s not just steep, it’s pretty much VERTICAL, and I need to stock up on pitons.)

After several weeks of learning to think differently, I think (heh) that although I already recognized this was going to be the hardest thing I have ever attempted (and probably will ever attempt) in graduate school, it’s actually much harder than I thought it would be. I was right in my initial assumption, although I underestimated the scope and my ability to develop the necessary skill set. I’m in the process of reworking my site. However, I have stepped away from reworking the site out of frustration – making ad hoc changes just to try to get something up. I’m now coming at it with a plan, and I’m revising my plan in light of what I KNOW I can do or learn. I am also in the process of accepting that this site will NOT look the way it does in my head in the next 4 weeks. I just don’t have the skills. However. I will produce something at the very least acceptable. I’m really aiming for a solid site, which means well-designed (if not pretty or flashy), usable, and accessible, with good quality content. There will be actual text on every part of the site, not the filler from the template. I am considering removing sections like the blogroll – I’ve never done anything with it, and, at this point, it’s visual noise. (More from Krug – can I say again just how helpful I found that book?) It may come back in the future, because I actually know how to create a new container for a blog roll – I don’t have to rely on the template anymore. [cue triumphant music]

What do I want this site to be in the end? As much as I would like it to be a starting point for people interested in both military history and gender studies (those people who think both Susan Bordo AND tanks are awesome), I simply cannot produce anything even acceptable in the time remaining at my current skill level. So. The final project will be a working website of Rockwell’s Rosie. The paper will be edited for web consumption. Each page will connect to the others sequentially, but there will be an option for non-linear navigation. The images will be cropped, sized, and Zoomified (does anyone else LOVE THAT WORD?). Images will, by heaven, FIT ON THE PAGE. (I’ll post a link when I figure out that mess of an image assignment page.)

Again, Krug’s laws are really helpful. Williams, not as much right now. I know I can do better with color, but I’ve discovered I’m much more at the “try it and see” stage. Which is never a pretty process. I have a problem in general with editing. I try to cram all this totally awesome stuff into a completely inadequate delivery method. Case in point – I’m prepping a lecture for HIST 100 on World War II. One 50 minute class to tell them all the cool stuff I’ve spent the last 15 years learning. The limits of the course already require that half the war (the Pacific Theater) be reduced to “there was this other section but in the interests of getting through this in less than an hour, I’m skipping it.” I am faced with the same issue on my website: I have a great deal of theory in the paper about constructions, propaganda and gender structure, all designed to create a frame for my image analysis.

It’s a bit of a ramble tonight. I’m turning over a lot of new concepts, ideas, and possible solutions in my head. This is a good way to work out my confusions and issues and get some help in the bargain. Unfortunately, at times like these, I can be hard to follow. But there’s one more thing the two Clio classes have taught me: Class is for making mistakes. This is where I learn. If I wait until it’s perfect, or if I compare myself to someone with a lot of experience, skill, or raw talent, I will never put anything up and will never learn. Last week was over-analysis paralysis. This week, it’s perfection paralysis. I tell myself perfection just ain’t gonna happen. Get over it and move on to what IS going to happen. It’s high time I un-paralyze myself.

(Apologies, I appear to be parentheses-happy today.)

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7 Comments

Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Project, Readings

 

7 responses to “Pitons and Paralysis

  1. Erin

    April 3, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I know the feeling. Perfection is as elusive as that damned white rabbit.

    I may be biased because I’m also doing an image-heavy site, but I do think it’s the best way to present your idea. The analysis of the images will be really fun and you’ll get to convey some really interesting information in a way that is easily digestible. I think it’s perfect for web presentation and takes advantage of what the web does really well — visuals.

    Keep your head. It’ll be great.

     
  2. Clayton Farrington

    April 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Until this semester, my philosophy about graduate school was that your function as a student was primarily to (a) show what you knew already as a budding professional scholar, and (b) cultivate connections for either (1) the next phase of graduate school or (2) the real world. I even took off for two years solid to conduct research outside the school umbrella so that when I returned to grad school I would not have to learn anything new and could devote my time to simply showing what I knew already. But this class has forced me to go back to my undergrad (or maybe even sixth-grade) mentality and concentrate on learning again.

    Anywho, I also found Krug’s book helpful, but (I can dream, can’t I?) I wish he had an edition for education sites. I know his bread-and-butter is making commercial sites hum, but some design elements do not translate equally well to a site designed to inform rather than sell things.

    Last thing: I thought of you when I saw this really cool CSS design page (I found it when trolling hundreds of sites in preparation to rework my own material) connected to the CSS Zen Garden site. Larry Lussig says it’s okay to rip it off, so take it!

     
  3. Clayton Farrington

    April 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Until this semester, my philosophy about graduate school was that your function as a student was primarily to (a) show what you knew already as a budding professional scholar, and (b) cultivate connections for either (1) the next phase of graduate school or (2) the real world. I even took off for two years solid to conduct research outside the school umbrella so that when I returned to grad school I would not have to learn anything new and could devote my time to simply showing what I knew already. But this class has forced me to go back to my undergrad (or maybe even sixth-grade) mentality and concentrate on learning again.

    Anywho, I also found Krug’s book helpful, but (I can dream, can’t I?) I wish he had an edition for education sites. I know his bread-and-butter is making commercial sites hum, but some design elements do not translate equally well to a site designed to inform rather than sell things.

    Last thing: I thought of you when I saw this really cool CSS design page http://www.csszengarden.com/?cssfile=/199/199.css&page=1 (I found it when trolling hundreds of sites in preparation to rework my own material) connected to the CSS Zen Garden site. Larry Lussig says it’s okay to rip it off, so take it!

     
  4. Clayton Farrington

    April 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Okay, after two attempts the URL for that military-themed site did not show, so I will try it again:

    http://www.csszengarden.com/?cssfile=/199/199.css&page=1

    It’s a little over-the-top, but with a little tweaking, it could be a credible attention grabber.

     
  5. Clayton Farrington

    April 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Alright, now I see it. This is getting monotonous. Oh well, my blog response stats are going up!

     
  6. Laura

    April 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    I just commented on Sasha’s blog about perfectionism. I think you’ve got it. The “canvas” in this class is easily “painted over,” so yank stuff around and see what happens.

    We are all such good historians, accustomed to the age-old ways of doing things. That’s why we are pursuing graduate studies, right? This is our time to be kindergartners again with several jars of finger paint in front of us. The change comes in the fact that we have a few “adult” guidelines for our paintings to make them usable, pleasant, and navigable.

    Whoops! Talk about rambling….

     
  7. Alex Bradshaw

    April 5, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I was reading your post and I realized how sad we all are: Here we are, PhD students; we are supposed to be smart, at this highest level of education, and we are getting our asses kiscked over simple websites! I, and I assume everyone else, was trained in anlytical thinking, not technical. That kind of mindset can make it very hard to approach the work that we have to do in this class. When I was a member of a group oowing and awwing over historic artifacts last night, I realized that we are uniquely geeky, while computer and website people are uniquely geeky in a completely different way. And somwtimes it feels right to blend the two geekiness’s and sometimes it feels wronger than worng. I am suffering from these huge swings back and forth this semester and it sounds like you are. I hope this comment is more than a waste of space!

     

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