It is officially week seven, and I’ve become quite confident in my project. Although I’ve slacked a bit compared to last week, I’m still ahead of the schedule I’ve created for myself. I’ve begun the overall design of the website, and creating some of the content I want to put on display. This includes plant profiles, main goals, and external resources. In addition, i’ve become familiar with how WordPress operates. I’ve learned how to:

  • access plugins
  • customize site identity and colouring
  • swap templates
  • create blog posts
  • use photos correctly (resizing and optimization)
  • edit meta data

I’ve also begun meeting with my mentor this past week, and I am glad to say that it’s helping. I knew I couldn’t ask for technical help, because the implementations I wanted to create with WordPress are specific, and extremely sparse in instruction. Instead, I decided to prepare for our meeting by memorizing a few key questions that I wanted to guide our conversation around.
1. What are websites used for, and how should I gear the functionalities of my site towards my purpose?

2. Programming: what is it and how can I use it?

3. What can I do as of right now to further progress my project?

They were quite useful, and sparked an interesting and informative lecture. Here are the four main topics we ended up going over:

1. Important functionalities of an informational website
Three of the key elements Mr. Northcott emphasized were images, text, and external links. Linking to other websites provides visitors with a different take on your ideas, and makes your points stick out. A great practice is to hyperlink appropriate words to ensure a smooth transition from your site.

2. Drafting up the site

This is the stage I am currently at. Content aside, my current job is to design the general artistic template of the site. It’s quite a messy process, but there are tactics you can use to approach it. One of the easiest ways is to simply create an ‘annotated drawing’ of the site, to describe the general layout and functionalities of a page. To get inspiration, Mr. Northcott recommended that I study some successful websites in the same niche that I am in. Some good examples would be: the Canadian Red Cross, Me to We, and Unicef.

2. Programming

Mr. Northcott believes that everybody should how to code, as it allows you to interact with machines. As technology becomes increasingly more accessible, so should ease of programming. For those who don’t have a clue what coding is, you can compare it to mathematical notation – a subject we’re currently covering in math. Function notation communicates the appearance of a graph just as does code with a website. Both disciplines are built on logic, and syntax: a unique set of rules that governs the ‘grammar’ of the language. A typical website runs on three different languages: HTML, CSS, and Javascript. All three languages are unique, and add a new dimension to a site. HTML adds the content of your website, whether that be text, pictures, or checkboxes. CSS governs how the content is styled, and can be compared to the tool bar at the top of Microsoft Word. Javascript determines the functionalities of your site, such as video libraries, commercial transactions, or an image slider.

3. Transitioning from a CMS, to no CMS

Essentially what WordPress does is create a user-friendly interface where anyone can edit code without touching it. But what if I got rid of this intermediary? This would be an incredibly difficult leap – one that is not a realistic goal for this year’s in-depth project. However if I ever decided to take web design seriously, this transition would be play an incredibly pertinent role in my journey. To paraphrase my mentor:

“Building a website purely off of code would take ten minutes. However, it takes a hell of a lot longer to get to a position where you can do that. When a barista is trained to make coffee, they are not taught how to create a coffee machine, or how to collect Cocoa beans. Instead, they are taught how to simply, make coffee.”

Just like WordPress, a website built from scratch would also require a server to live in. From the FTP (essentially the files that your site is composed), you can start coding. But of course, it’s a lot easier said than done.

What has been my most difficult mentoring challenge so far?  Why?

Coming into this year’s in-depth, I was quite perplexed as to how I would maneuver around the jargon, intricacies and ideas associated with web design – let alone ask someone to teach me what they are. This was the most difficult aspect of entering a metro/mentor relationship: finding out what questions to ask. Preparing has definitely been a challenge, because of how little experience I have had coming in. I’m never too sure how to ask for technical help, because my long list of questions have fallen into one or two of the categories below:

  • It requires a quick google search, and does not further discussion
  • I have no idea how to describe the function

What is working well?

Because of Mr. Northcott’s experience with the field, he was able to accurately infer what I wanted to talk about. His ability to take words out of my mouth has been a blessing, because of the described difficulties above. This was especially useful when discussing the implementation of programming; which is a topic that I am very unconfident with. Following this conversation, I felt more comfortable with the topic, and more excited to work with it in the near future. As far as the actual layout of a site, Mr. Northcott seems to be very familiar with the variety of styles in which a web-designer could pursue. Some formats we discussed were:

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Static pages

What could be working better?  How can you make sure this happens?

Although an element may appear to be a simple part of a website, many are complicated once you take a deeper look on the back-end. With this being said, I could really use some technical help with my site. It seems as if two new issues appear with every one that I solve. As I mentioned above, it has been incredibly difficult to ask for technical help, since I’m not sure what to ask. However, the more I’m immersing myself in the web design world, the more terms I’ve been able to learn and inquire about. So In order to prepare for my up-coming meetings with Mr. Northcott, I’ve attempted to describe a list of basic functionalities that I want to potentially integrate into my website:

  • A home page that displays both blog posts, and static elements
  • Summary of blog posts in its thumbnail (an excerpt?)
  • Slider/Gallery
  • Button Link to another page in header (call to action?)
  • Contact forms
  • Creating maps

Here are a few sites that I have taken inspiration from:

Jetplanes & Champagne: A blog my neighbor created on cool gifts.

Bee city Canada: A charity website based in Toronto

All in all, this has been a great week. I am ahead of schedule and my team mates seem to be really interested in the project. I’m excited to see where the next week will take me.

Check out my final in-depth post!