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  1. #1
    I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Fluffykins's Avatar
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    Help! I need advice on planning a course.

    OK, it's finally happened. Some mad person in the high up halls of education has placed me in charge of a course. I've been asked to develop, staff and deliver a 3 day training course on "Successfully Planning and Designing a Website". The course is aimed at college staff in the UK, but the principles involved are pretty much universal I think.

    My biggest problem is, what should I cover? Here are the things I think will definately go in there:

    :: Planning the site's structure
    :: Information Architecture Basics
    :: Top Down / Bottom Up design
    :: Effective Page Layout (whitespace, typography, use of graphics, load-times etc)
    :: The basics of website Promotion and how to incorporate the site into their existing market strategy.

    That's it so far, but i'm wondering, am I missing anything?

    I want to spend a lot of time making them think about their site before they build it in terms of structure, content organisation etc, then knock up some simple pages and graphic concepts in Dreamweaver and Fireworks. The course is mainly on design concepts and sucessful site planning though, and is designed as a pre-cursor to the software training courses we already run (Dreamweaver, Fireworks, FrontPage etc).

    The ultimate aim is for them to go away with a well planned, well thought out website and at the very least a design concept.

    So, give me your feedback! Tell me what you think should be included in the course and how I should cover it. This is the first course I've ever been asked to develop and run on my own so I want this one to be good. There's a lot of theory and lecture type stuff here, so how do I make it interesting?

    Help

    Ady
    v-technologies - Freelance Goodness.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard dominique's Avatar
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    What is "Top Down / Bottom Up design"?


    The only thing I can think of is to make sure that they understand that they have to keep consistency (background, layout, etc) between all their pages. A lot of people change their layout for different parts of their website, which is very annoying.
    Last edited by dominique; May 30, 2001 at 06:07.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    The appropriateness or not of the database driven model - accessibility issues - browser compatibility issues - screen resolution issues - usability testing - just a few that spring to mind

    3 days -

    Just give 'em the link to Sitepoint

    H
    ~The Artist Latterly Known as Crazy Hamster~
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  4. #4
    I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Fluffykins's Avatar
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    Originally posted by dominique
    What is "Top Down / Bottom Up design"?
    In this instance: Top down design is where you plan your website from the home-page down, define all the major sections then create the content to fill it. Bottom up design is where you've got the content already and you need to define a series of distinct categories and formulate it all into a sound structure. It refers to the creation of a hierarchy of pages in this case but you can apply it to software development and alsorts.

    H: Usability! There's something I'd not thought of. I'll add in a session on designing for different platforms and browsers and the things people need to be aware of. Cheers.

    The problem with things like this is there's so much to fit in and so little time! I do give them a list of websites to look at for more information though and SitePoint is always on the list, often at the top

    Ady
    v-technologies - Freelance Goodness.

  5. #5
    Procrastinator Extraordinaire lucas's Avatar
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    Re: Help! I need advice on planning a course.

    Originally posted by Fluffykins
    OK, it's finally happened. Some mad person in the high up halls of education has placed me in charge of a course. I've been asked to develop, staff and deliver a 3 day training course on "Successfully Planning and Designing a Website". The course is aimed at college staff in the UK, but the principles involved are pretty much universal I think.
    *gulp* i would run away screaming if i had to do that

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard dominique's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Fluffykins


    In this instance: Top down design is where you plan your website from the home-page down, define all the major sections then create the content to fill it. Bottom up design is where you've got the content already and you need to define a series of distinct categories and formulate it all into a sound structure. It refers to the creation of a hierarchy of pages in this case but you can apply it to software development and alsorts.
    Ahhhhh...... makes sense.

  7. #7
    SitePoint Zealot
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    Believe me, I could really use a course like the one you will teach because I know just enough to be dangerous!

    Theory is, well, just theory. There is nothing quite like seeing the real thing in action. If I were taking your course, I would enjoy having the instructor guide the class in an analysis of real world examples of both good and bad site design. This would make things much more fun and interesting. I have learned just as much from bad design as good design.

  8. #8
    I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Fluffykins's Avatar
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    Analysis of real world examples is also something I've thought of. I think as an initial introduction to laying out pages i'll look at an existing site that's generally perceived to have a good layout and ask them "what makes this site's layout good?". Hopefully that'll identify key features of a successful site design. I may also, for a bit of fun, try the opposite approach and do the same thing with a really bad site.

    Yay! It's actually taking shape

    Ady
    v-technologies - Freelance Goodness.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    From another thread, this is a cracking pre-prepared catalogue of major don'ts. ('specially when viewed in NS 4.7 & 6 )

    H
    ~The Artist Latterly Known as Crazy Hamster~
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  10. #10
    Just Blow It bronze trophy
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    Hey, this is sounding more and more like a new sitepoint article in the making.....

    How about it fluffykins? up for writing an article for sitepoint after you give the class?

    Anyone else think it's a good idea???
    Dave Maxwell - Manage Your Site Team Leader
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  11. #11
    ********* Callithumpian silver trophy freakysid's Avatar
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    Just a couple of quick thoughts.

    1) Usability. It is one thing to say - "look at this web site and tell me what you think about how it is designed" but the problem is that you fall into the designers trap of looking at the web site from the artists perspective and not the poor old users. That is, you can become trapped into concentrating on asthetic issues and overlooking the way information has been organised and navigation provided. I would come up with a couple of case studies where you actually set people tasks to achieve at web sites. For example; got to icq.com and download ICQ for win95 and tell me what the system requirements are.

    Or got to www.mit.edu and tell me what the course structure is for xyz degree.

    2) Stealing other peoples ideas (technically known as competitor analysis) is always important. How are others presenting similar information and tackling similar problems to yours?

    At the back of my mind when thinking about those two points was the question of audience participation and self-directed learning which is always important (three days of lectures == )

    3) With the course being only three days you have to think about - what do these people *need* to know about web publishing. I would develop a list of fundamental huristics DOs and DON'Ts. For example, "Do aim for a total download size of XKB per web page", DON'T embed images larger than 25KB into content pages, etc, etc.
    (I am sure that the uni already has a web publishing guide and standards).

    Good luck

  12. #12
    I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Fluffykins's Avatar
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    Originally posted by DaveMaxwell
    How about it fluffykins? up for writing an article for sitepoint after you give the class?
    Ah what it is to be in demand OK, I'll look into adding this to my list of article ideas. There's maybe the potential for one on using Information Architecture to successfully plan a website's structure. That'll keep me busy after I've finished the two i'm working on!

    freakysid: Thanks as always for the valuable info. User participation and self-directed learning is something I like to encourage, of course that way there's less delivery for me and my job is easier

    Ady
    v-technologies - Freelance Goodness.

  13. #13
    I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Fluffykins's Avatar
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    Phase 2

    Sorry to drag up this old thread again folks, but I've put together a list of sessions and what I'd like to cover in each one and before I send it off to lots of important people to look at, I wanted your opinions on how i've divided things up and thw range of topics to cover. Here we go:

    Introduction to Fireworks

    Techniques:
    • Introduction to the interface
    • Drawing simple shapes
    • Using effects
    • Adding Tints
    • Masking Objects
    • Opacity / feathering


    Theory
    • The websafe colour palette
    • GIF / JPEG / PNG


    Introduction to Dreamweaver

    Techniques
    • Introduction to the interface
    • Introduction to file management and defining a site
    • Working with text
    • Adding images
    • Using tables for layout
    • Creating hyperlinks
    • Using Style Sheets


    Theory
    • Typography and font groups
    • The limitations of HTML and the saviour that is CSS


    Concept Planning (discussion and presentational material, delegates encouraged to answer these questions in relation to their own situation)



    Content Planning

    • Top down / bottom up content planning
    • How we define the site’s structure
    • Effective navigation
    • “7 plus or minus 2”
    • Using icons to represent the top level navigation
    • The “3 click website”
    • The use of “breadcrumb trails” (e.g. Home > Courses > A-Levels > Maths)
    • The importance of the database driven model
    • Ease of update later on (database!)
    • Content ownership & management


    Usability & Compatibility

    • Ensuring cross browser / cross platform interoperability
    • Making your site ‘babelfish friendly’
    • The importance of ALT tags
    • Designing for different resolutions


    Getting to the Drawing Board page and layout concerns

    • Effective use of Colour
    • Choosing a mood
    • Limiting your palette
    • Making use of white-space
    • Keeping load times down
    • Make the pages easy to print
    • Using layout grids to mock-up pages
    • Minimal use of animation
    • Plan the design to fit the content or vice versa?


    Putting it into Practice

    • Practical session allowing delegates to consolidate what they’ve learned by working on a page layout and site navigation system.


    Promoting Your Site & Incorporating it into Your Existing Marketing Strategy (last day – 30 minute presentation?)

    • Optimising the site for search engines – META tags (description / keywords)
    • Keyword density
    • Getting the URL noticed


    Have a look through my rough plan, tell me if you think there's anything missing, if there's anything in the wrong section or if there's any other way you think I can improve the structure and organisation of the course. I want to get this right!

    Ady
    v-technologies - Freelance Goodness.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Enthusiast norfett's Avatar
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    how about letting them know not to cut n paste from other peoples sites?

    one of the clients I our company works for, saw some knightrider style flash buttons - he then wanted us to go get them and whole sale rip em off!

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  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Jeremy W.'s Avatar
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    That's all in 3 days?

    I mean, honestly?

    I'd be VERY impressed if anyone could cover all of the above in significant enough depth that the students grasp all that in 3 days. Sure, you'll get a roomful of students because you're covering so much but if you are doing ANY exercises try and realise the 1/3 theory, 2/3 practical rule (for them to grasp it)...

    So, that said, can you cover all of the above in 1 day (total elapsed time/3)? If not, maybe you're covering too much.

    There is nothing worse than:

    -From the student's perspective: not being taught everything
    -From the teacher's perspective: having to hurry

    There is nothing better than:

    -From the student's perspective: "Getting it"
    -From the teacher's perspective: Feeling you've done a really good job
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  16. #16
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    Great plan - (love the fact that webtekrocks made it in there!) - I too worry about squeezing it all into three days - although I have been on a course with similar content over 2 days.......

    (I will say that most peeps there who had no idea about web dev left pretty clueless and a little annoyed as it cost over a grand)

    Hopefully three days will be enough for you to be gentle - are they 8 hour days?
    H

    Good Luck!
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  17. #17
    I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Fluffykins's Avatar
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    I too worry about not being able to fit everything in, but console myself in the fact that there's a total of about 25 hours taught time over the three days give or take a few hours for meals and coffee by the gallon (it's an intensive course! - 8 on day 1, 12 on day 2 and 5 on day 3) and a lot of the material needs only a 10 or 15 minute overview and pointing them to the right bit of reference material to read later on.

    The BIG problem with stuff like this is there's sooooo much to cover and so little time. I think i'll condense a lot of the presentational stuff into short presentations giving a very general overview of some of the less essential stuff and then going into the specifics of one or two things based on what delegates are most interested in. No doubt i'll produce a hefty set of notes explaining each section for them to refer to later on too.

    The two software introductions can be very hands-on, the two sessions on planning I figured could be steered discussions rather than us just talking at them for an hour each. That'll let them put what we're saying into the context of their own situation and hopefully help it sink in a bit better. I also thought I'd leave an hour or so afterwards for some groupwork letting them plan out their own site's structure and objectives given the guidelines we put forward beforehand. I figure about an hour for each presentation making just over half the course hands-on.

    I think we should be able to manage it. There are 4 of us teaching the course so we can take turns with the delivery and help eachother out on the workshops. I guess i'll have to see what the people in charge say.

    Ady
    v-technologies - Freelance Goodness.

  18. #18
    ********* Callithumpian silver trophy freakysid's Avatar
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    Wow - looks like an intensive course and well thought out. Three days - boy, your attendees are going to be worn out after all that! Best of luck with it. I notice there is nothing in there about making a sysadmin's life easier That is, ftp'ing onto the server, logs and stats, etc. Is this something that participants have to know - or should already know?

    Regarding the 7 +/- 2 rule, umm, that's more like 1 +/- 2 for ppl like me

    Best of luck with it!

  19. #19
    I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Fluffykins's Avatar
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    Originally posted by freakysid
    I notice there is nothing in there about making a sysadmin's life easier That is, ftp'ing onto the server, logs and stats, etc. Is this something that participants have to know - or should already know?
    This is designed to be stage one of a 3 part series, but we already run parts 2 and 3 if you know what I mean. Part 2 is more on web design and goes into a lot of detail on designing pages and graphics, FTP, and all that. The 3rd takes it a step further and looks at making your site interactive using server-side database programming. This one is designed to cover all that theoretical stuff we can't cover on the other two

    Thanks for the votes of confidence Writing the learning materials is going to be fun! </sarcasm>

    Ady
    v-technologies - Freelance Goodness.


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