The MA Web Design and Content Planning programme consists of 5 core courses and these are described below. Part-time students complete the first three courses in their first year and the final two courses in their second year (90 credits per year). Full-time students will complete all 5 courses in one year.
Course code: DESI1183 Credit: 40
The Webpage Design 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 XHTML and CSS, page design and layout, the use of colour and colour theory, 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. No prior knowledge of any of these topics is assumed. Students will complete a number of projects, including the creation of a simple website. See the course homepage for more information.
Beautiful code makes beautiful websites
The Webpage Design 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: DESI1184 Credit: 20
The Website Planning course builds on the principles learnt in the Webpage Design course and shifts the emphasis from page design principles to site design principles. In addition, concepts relevant to larger websites such as site structure and information architecture are introduced. These themes are further developed in the Content Strategy course. This course also considers the techniques that can be employed to deliver websites that are easily navigable, accessible to people with disabilities and are useable. 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. 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, 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. See the course homepage for more information.
Course code: DESI1181 Credit: 20
The Content Management 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, sources of funds, site structure, information architecture, content management, writing styles, copyright, search engine optimisation (SEO), e-commerce, e-learning and web geography. 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. See the course homepage for more information.
Applied Art for the Web
Course code: DESI1182 Credit: 40
This course has a number of strands. It first examines the use of the web and the internet as a new medium/platform for the development of art. Students will be encouraged to develop new ideas and explore new possibilities. There is also a review of existing art projects and a discussion of their success. A second strand helps students develop a critical eye when reviewing other websites. All designers must be able to deliver effective critique of the work of others in order to become a better critic of their own work (and ultimately, a better designer). By this stage, students will be capable of delivering an effective critique of any website with regard to its aesthetic and technical qualities. A third strand further develops some of the ideas first introduced during the Webpage Design course. In particular, the composition of images and their use as integral webpage components. The use of digital photography and photographic composition is discussed. Other strands consider the practicalities and appropriate use of other media types such as audio, video and Flash. All of these strands are backed up with practical projects. See the course homepage for more information.
Web Thesis Project
Course code: DESI1052Credit: 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, 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. See the course homepage for more information.