The MA Web Design and Content Planning programme consists of 6 core courses and these are described below. Part-time students complete the first four courses in their first year and the final two courses in their second year (90 credits per year). Full-time students will complete all 6 courses in one year.
Note: the course structure detailed below is new for September 2015. Programme content remains the same as in previous years.
Design for Web Content
Course code: DESI1205 Credit: 30
The Design for Web Content course could be considered the ‘foundation’ course of the programme. It is the first taught course and covers all the basic building blocks of web design. The course examines two of the core themes of web design, aesthetics/graphics and client-side coding. Topics include the use of HTML, XHTML and CSS, page design and layout, the use of colour, the use of images and image file formats, typography and general graphic design principles such as composition, visual hierarchy, alignment, the use of grids, emphasis and flow. In addition, the course introduces students to modern web design concepts such as the use of ‘semantic markup’ (also known as structured markup), the separation of content and presentation and working with web standards as defined by the W3C. The course also introduces contemporary principles of web design such as ‘content out’, ‘mobile first’, ‘responsive design’ and ‘user-centred design’. No prior knowledge of any of these topics is assumed although students are expected to have done some preparation for their studies. Students will complete projects and coursework, including the creation of a simple website.
Beautiful code makes beautiful websites
The Design for Web Content course is a blend of general design, graphic design and HTML/CSS. If the markup above looks like a foreign language to you, you'll be speaking that language fluently by the end of this course.
Course code: DESI1206 Credit: 30
The Content Management course builds on the principles learnt in the Design for Web Content course and shifts the emphasis from content design principles to site design principles and the management of content. In addition, concepts relevant to larger websites such as site structure and information architecture are introduced. The use of server-side technologies, such as PHP and MySQL databases is discussed. No modern medium-to-large scale website can effectively be designed without the use of some interactivity using server-side technologies. Although the course does not teach PHP and MySQL per se, it does introduce techniques such as the use of PHP includes and SQL queries, that help to make the design and maintenance of websites much more efficient. The course also discusses the use of ‘off-the-peg’ website components such as forums, blogs and content management systems such as WordPress.
Social Media and SEO
Course code: DESI1209 Credit: 15
Social Media and SEO course deals with the philosophy, business and organization of publishing content over the internet. This includes individual publishing, educational publishing, corporate intranets, public organizations, small, medium and large enterprises. Topics covered include: business aims, branding, social media, site structure, information architecture, content management, writing styles, copyright, search engine optimisation (SEO), analytics and e-commerce. These topics are discussed in the context of social, political and commercial trends and related to web design considerations. Phenomena such as the rise of Google, the success of their various initiatives such as the AdSense programme and the way that this has changed the web are discussed.
User Experience Design
Course code: DESI1208 Credit: 15
The User Experience Design course deals with the principles of user-centred design and the importance of knowing your users so that design decisions can be made to control and improve the user experience (UX). This course also considers the techniques that can be employed to deliver websites that have a good content strategy, are easily navigable, accessible and understandable by all users. Particular emphasis is given to the design of the user interface and the creation of logical and intelligent navigation. Accessibility can be greatly improved by the use of thoughtful coding and good graphic design and these ideas will be developed during the course. The course also considers the use of user testing, code validation and accessibility testing using the WAI guidelines.
Applied Art for the Web
Course code: DESI1207 Credit: 30
This course is designed to reinforce the topics taught on the Design for Web Media and Content Planning courses. The aim is to take student skills and understanding across a range of graphic and technical design topics to the next level. Topics covered include typography, bitmap images, vector images (SVG), graphic design principles, layout design, icon design. Each topic is considered in respect of visual design and the underlying technical principles. The course also covers WordPress theme design.
Course code: MEDS1147Credit: 60
The Web Thesis Project gives students the opportunity to research, develop and implement a live website as a practical illustration of the skills and ideas developed on the programme. The project begins with a project brief, developed by each student and then progresses through research, concept, cultural context, design development and planning before moving through to implementation. At each stage, the project will be reviewed by staff and students and additional guidance and criticism given where appropriate. Students will need their own commercial hosting and a domain name. Discussion of these issues and aspects such as branding will be covered. The success of the project is determined by how well it satisfies the original brief, the aesthetic qualities of the finished design, the appropriateness of the ‘look-and-feel’ of the design, the usability and accessibility of the site and the clarity, logic and structure of coding and other technical aspects of the site. In previous years, students have created a wide range of websites and this is an opportunity for students to develop a major web project that could become a successful and potentially lucrative website beyond the end of the MA programme.