11 Mar

Portfolio Project: WordPress Research

As part of my Portfolio Project, I wanted to research the best way to integrate a separate portfolio section on this WordPress blog. It has to showcase my best design work, and allow me to write ‘case study’ information about each element.

I initially came across a portfolio plugin, but it has very mixed reviews and still seems in early stages of development.

I then searched WordPress plugins for portfolio-style galleries, and came across the Codenovo Portfolio plugin. I found it very simple to use, and integrate with my existing site. I edited the CSS to match my colour scheme, aiding continuity between the blog and portfolio sections.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 20.15.35

I then added a few of my works to this, to see how it would look. So far, I’m very pleased with this, and will continue to add design work over the coming weeks.

09 Mar

Women’s History Month: Grace Hopper

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was an American computer scientist, and often celebrated as “The Queen of Code”. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, back in 1944. She developed the first working compiler, as well as working to develop the programming language COBOL.

Grace Hopper by Ashley Nye

She is also often associated with the first use of the term “debugging”, after removing a moth from malfunctioning equipment. She has paved a way for more women in computing, and her name is used as a celebration for women in technology.

“The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is the World’s Largest Gathering of Women Technologists”. – gracehopper.org

There is still a huge gender gap in this field – women account for just 18% of undergraduate degrees awarded for computer science. An interesting article by Selena Larson highlights a few possible reasons for this.

The best way to tackle this problem is education in schools. Getting girls interested in computing can change the way we see this male-dominated industry. There are also more women-orientated coding meet ups, such as She Codes in Brighton. A quick google search reveals more and more of these popping up, a great encouragement for a female in the digital industry!

05 Mar

Web Dev: Style Tiles

I created the following style tile to give my client a clearer impression of the site than the mood board. (I downloaded the template from styletil.es).

Style_Tile_Ashley

I looked at quite a few different websites and blogs to get a feel for what I wanted. The following is a list of where I took my inspiration:

I also decided on a very minimalist style, with a 3-colour accent palette. I also begun to experiment with drawings and illustrations in this style using Adobe Illustrator. Figures like these can be possibly be used on the site to add interest:

Ballet_Dancer_by_Ashley_Nye

The following shows some of my logo experiments alongside the dance school’s existing logo. My client was happy for me to redesign and rebrand, which gave me a lot of freedom to create something fresh and exciting.

logoDevelopment

04 Mar

Web Dev: CMS vs Hand Coding

Choosing how to create a website demands a fair amount of research and reasoned decision-making. This will ensure that I don’t waste time, energy and money further down the line.

Initially, there are two different ‘paths’ that spring to mind; some sort of Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress or to hand code the website. There are lots of interesting ideas about how to go about choosing the technology/language/framework on various blogs, but ultimately it varies from project to project.

The best way to decide is to research into some of the advantages and disadvantages of each method, and see how this particular project fits into this. This post on 7Host’s blog highlights some of them, which I based the following table on. It shows the reasons why I have decided hand coding will be better for this project.

CMS Hand coding
Benefits Easy programming, easy user management, templates, great for blogs and larger-scale projects. Complete control, greater understanding, quick, clean and efficient.
Disadvantages Customisation/modifying can be tedious, loading times/bigger websites. More work initially, knowledge required, debugging time.
Project specific notes Only necessary if client wanted to blog. Project is small-scale, not enough to warrant database backing. Made-to-fit code, efficient and a better method for a mainly static site.

Even after deciding on hand coding instead of CMS, there are a few different options I could chose to progress. Either begin coding from scratch, using a simple text editor, or start from a CSS framework such as Bootstrap, Foundation or Skeleton. I created my portfolio site from scratch, so I know roughly what I am  currently capable of coding (obviously, there is always more to learn!).

In comparison, this article on Mashable shows a list of some popular frameworks that I can begin to research, but aside from looking at some examples and reading about them, the best way I can determine what will be most suitable is to try them. Experimenting in this way will only improve my skill set and allow me to build up my own personal web designer’s toolkit.

toolkitThumb

04 Mar

Women’s History Month: Rosa Parks

March is Women’s History Month.

Rosa Parks by Ashley Nye

© 2015 Ashley Nye

This year will be 60 years since Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat to a white passenger while riding a bus in Alabama. She became an important symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.

Directly as a result of her arrest, a boycott was arranged, asking all black people to avoid using the buses in Montgomery.

“The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.” – Rosa Parks

One of the interesting parts of this is the way in which the boycott was arranged. Jo Ann Robinson knew that something had to be done urgently, and mimeographed over 35,000 handbills in one night announcing a bus boycott. The Women’s Political Council distributed these thousands of leaflets, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott went ahead successfully.

Today, we have it much easier; access to quick, creative tools and the most fantastic distribution method imaginable. It will always take courage to speak out against injustice. But if Parks can stay sitting on that bus, facing what she faced. And if Robinson can arrange to spread the word without all the benefit of technology we have now, just think what is possible.

27 Feb

The big colour debate: gold/white or blue/black?

99% of my Facebook feed last night consisted of arguments about the colour of one (terribly over-exposed photograph of a) dress.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 08.10.02

Personally, I can only see white and gold. I see no black at all. But a little editing shows why people can see it both ways…

(wired.com)

(wired.com)

On the left, I only see white and gold. On the right, I see black and blue. In the middle, the original, I now see a similarity between both left and right pictures. Basically, it is all about perception – and this is why I find colour so fascinating.

My other half is colour blind. I really enjoy this, and often ask him what colours he sees when I’m working on a project. It’s easy to forget that most people will see a different version to you. How much of this is ‘taste’ and how much is ‘perception’ I have no idea. When deciding on paint colours in B&Q, after much disagreement, my husband jokingly put forth the idea that maybe we both like the same colour, we just see them differently.

This could well be the case. It is not beyond the realms of possibility. Throw into the mix that there are different types of colour blindness and it becomes increasingly impossible to know just what another person sees.

(wearecolorblind.com)

(wearecolorblind.com)

So where does this leave us from a design point-of-view?

Well, you will generally know if you see things differently to everyone else. I will always remember back in art college, an ex-student working as a children’s book illustrator came back to show us his work. He was colour-blind, and his work was extraordinary. It had a palette that was subtle and unique in a way that I would struggle to produce. He had to have some input with his colour choices though, if I remember rightly.

There is, and will always be, a collaborative effort in the best design work. Design is about creating for somebody else, and we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Your preference is just as valid as anybody else’s. Equally, if other folks see black and blue, that’s a consideration you should probably factor in!

25 Feb

Web Dev: Colour

To get a feel for the site I want to create, I put together the following moodboard. I think my favourite thing about it is the fluid illustrations, and the line that represents movement so effectively. I want a feeling of fun as well as elegance.

BalletMoodboard

I then put together a few colour palettes, some based on my idea of ballet and some directly taken from images I found on the web. I used Adobe Kuler to do this (now Adobe Color CC). I wanted to keep quite a feminine palette, but there is research to suggest that a lot of women prefer the colour blue or a green-blue mix so this also features in my tests.

colourPalsI also found this poster on Behance by Madhiya Qureshi that I think has a beautiful quality to it. Ballet and dance is all about movement and fluidity. I want to capture this in my design.

25 Feb

Web Dev: Target Audience

Before I begin designing, I need to know who I am designing for. I quickly mind-mapped my target audience.

targetAudience

There are a few points from this that I need to remember when designing the website.

  • Location is very important – make sure to use these tag words for SEO.
  • Parents will be more interested in exam information/educational aspect than other demographics.
  • The target audience is mainly female.
  • Parents are often short of time, so navigation has to be clear and quick to find information needed.

PERSONA

Photo by imagerymajestic (freedigitalphotos.net)

Photo by imagerymajestic (freedigitalphotos.net)

Megan Johnson

  • Part-time administration assistant
  • 36 years old
  • Married, with two children
  • Lives in Heathfield

Megan’s priority is her family life and she is their main care-giver. She likes to give her children (both school aged) the opportunity to take up many extra-curricular activities. She has a strong focus on their education.

SCENARIO

Megan is looking for a dance school in her local area, but hasn’t received a recommendation from anyone at her children’s school. She decides to search online to find one nearby, so types “dance school heathfield” into Google. Anita Gunn’s School of Dancing website comes up in one of the top searches (note – currently it doesn’t feature at all. SEO is going to be crucial to the success of the new site). She clicks on the link, and is impressed by the exam and award information. She decides that this will be beneficial for her children, so views the timetable and phones the number on the website to make plans to sign up.

Search terms

The terms I envisage people typing into Google (or other search engines) that I need to target are “dance school”, “ballet school” and “ballet classes” followed by the location. Location is very important here, as we are targeting quite a broad area.

20 Feb

Web Dev: Client Vision & Competitor Analysis

The first thing I did was put together this client specification (using a form developed by Clearleft). It highlights the main goals of the project, what the client wants to achieve from the website and some usual hints as to where to begin my research.

I started by taking a look at the client’s current web presence, screenshot below.

currentWebsite

My first thoughts are: it is a simple, one-page information screen. The colour scheme is consistent and the images are relevant and well presented, but it needs updating. There are far too many fonts being used too.

I then looked into competitors websites, to see what they did well, and what could be improved. The screenshots below show particular elements I like about the other websites. This is including the large flat-design visuals of the SCA, and the relevant imagery/gallery styles featured in other dance school websites.

competitionScreenshots

The colour seems to be an interesting one; ballet and dance is mainly associated with pink, but other colours have become more popular for dance schools setting a trend and becoming more modern. I’ll look into this more later when I research colour palettes.

competition

I then quickly assessed a couple of these against some main usability heuristics (Jakob Nielsen), and put them in a chart below. The current website is clearly due for a complete redesign.

CompetitorAnalysisChart