This module integrates the work of the MA Web Design and Content Planning programme and gives students the opportunity to produce a major item of independent work. Students will conceptualise, research, develop, implement, promote and analyse a live website as a practical illustration of the skills and ideas learned on the programme.
The module begins with a project proposal/concept, which becomes a firm brief, developed by each student and then progresses through research, planning and design development before moving through to implementation, monitoring, analysis and (finally) a report. The course runs for twelve months, starting in October and ending in October the following year. This gives students a reasonable amount of time in which to produce an effective and (hopefully) successful and lasting website.
At each stage, the project will be reviewed by staff and students and additional guidance and criticism given where appropriate. Dates for the staged crits are given in the programme schedule.
The success of the project will be determined by how well it satisfies the original brief or how well students have coped with required changes to the original brief should that be necessary. The project will be judged by various relevant qualities including; the commercial logic, innovation of concept, the aesthetic qualities of the finished design, the appropriateness of the “look-and-feel”, the user experience, the accessibility, the SEO success (PageRank and site traffic etc.), the clarity, logic and structure of coding, standards compliance, the appropriate use of web applications (CMS) and other technical aspects of the site.
A thesis sets out your “position” in the sense of your conclusions on a topic which has been investigated. At the end of the project, this will include an account of the research and case studies which support your conclusions.
Students will produce a written and illustrated report to document their examination of all the aspects mentioned and any others which may be specific to the project. Projects will inevitably vary widely from one student to another and there is therefore no pro-forma for the report. It is up to each student to formulate a structure which best suits their own project. However, the series of themed presentations and folow-up sub-reports provide a useful framework.
In some cases, the student’s effort will be balanced between all aspects of the work (technical, graphic, content, functions, business plan etc). In other cases (e.g. when working on an existing website or when using a CMS) the student’s productive effort will be less balanced. In every case, it is necessary to take an “architectural overview” of all aspects of the project. The word “architectural” is used because architectural design is a useful analogy for web design in that on small projects, building architects do everything but on large projects they work with structural engineers, services engineers, interior designers, landscape architects etc. For larger projects, the Major Project can take the form of a Prototype or students may elect to work with a specialist partner in order to deliver a working website.
Students will require their own commercial hosting and domain names as the resulting website will be independent of the University and will hopefully continue beyond the duration on the programme. 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.
Aims and Outcomes
The course aims to give students an opportunity to plan, design, produce and publish a website and to document the process. The project website can be related to a personal, professional or cultural interest.
Aims – this course is designed to allow students:
- The opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the whole programme curriculum.
- To produce a major piece of project work with supporting written documentation that can act as a portfolio piece or as a business opportunity in its own right.
- Think beyond their own abilities and guide them in developing new skills and/or relationships required for the successful completion of the project.
- To work independently and proactively to research and develop a deep understanding of and expertise within a relevant area of study.
Outcomes – at the end of the course students will be able to:
- Carry out research related to their project proposal.
- Develop a brief and define the scope of a major project.
- Understand the importance of a business rationale.
- Explain and justify their decisions during project development.
- Manage their time and resources in order to hit deadlines.
- Take a structured and logical approach to the development of a major project.
- Develop a project to a professional standard using best-practice techniques and methods.
- Generate an innovative project.
The project has 6 main phases:
- Autumn/Winter 2020
Concept: develop concept, brief, business logic, cultural context and undertake research.
- Spring 2021
Planning: project planning using research, cultural context, business, and Vitruvian principles in a series of themed crits.
- Easter 2021
Prototype: present full draft of website (working prototype) and a schedule of works.
- Summer 2021
Implementation and Promotion: complete a full implementation and promotion of website.
- Early Autumn 2021
Analysis: analyse traffic, site performance and other data.
- Mid Autumn 2021
Completion: you present your work and compile a final report, including a summary and conclusion.
The structure of the Major Project takes its lead from the Vitruvian principles of Commodity, Firmness and Delight, to which we add the non-Vitruvian principles of Business and Cultural Context. These principles apply to websites as follows:
- Business – A website need not be commercial but there must be a set of clearly defined aims, explaining the reason for being “busy” on the website and for someone (you or a client) providing the necessary resources of time and money for its production and maintenance. It must have a purpose, even if that does not involve creating a revenue stream.
- Cultural Context – A website is not an independent entity, it is a part of a world wide web of websites and its existence can be rationalised with respect to trends in contemporary culture and society. It is important for students on this programme to examine the “bigger picture” in order to understand and place their own work in a wider cultural context.
- Commodity – These considerations relate to the benefits, content, information architecture, accessibility and functionality a user will experience (UX) when visiting and using the website.
- Firmness – These considerations relate to the technology (hardware, software and standards compliance) used to create, operate and manage the website. In many cases this may involve the choice of an appropriate content management system or a specific way of coding a website.
- Delight – These considerations relate to the aesthetic design of the site: colour, line, font, pattern, symbolism, associations etc. The graphic design of websites is important but only as important as the other aspects of web design.
Each of the five principles above will be the subject of a crit or presentation, where students will explain how their proposed website satisfies the various requirements of each principle. Dates for the themed crits are given on the programme schedule. Each principle will also be the subject of a report, delivered after the crit. These reports will ultimately form a part of the final Major Project report. More detail on what students should present at each crit and include in their reports is given in the project brief.