One of the toughest issues I find facilitating a web design course is when to introduce ideas and experiences as the course progresses. It’s such an individual thing… inevitably some learners feel overwhelmed and others get bored… I mean there’s so many factors such as prior learning, motivation, how much effort we apply out-of-class, how deep we look into a topic when we learn etc.
Our class is at the stage now where some of us have already completed our 2nd project – a small (3 page) website (including css layout, uploading, validating and running simple performance tests) – and are keen to get stuck into the next project – a real client project. In the past, running a client project so early in the course has introduced some struggles for Genie, Jude and I facilitating the course… if you’ve got any ideas, please share them!
The facilitator’s main struggle
Getting people interested (and therefore learning) in the critical non-coding aspects of web-design is one of my main struggles. I facilitate workshops in Information Architecture – trying to motivate leaners to see how important this area is – but no matter what I do, IA just doesn’t cut it next to photoshop’ing an image or cutting a new CSS design.
Because of this, when we then begin our first client project, we begin by coding up a prototype of what we think will work – without even waiting to look at the results of client and user surveys. In the past, the result has been that we don’t get to experience a realistic web design process because we all inevitably skip essential tasks that we don’t think are so important.
This then makes it pretty difficult for the facilitators to assess these skills or even encourage them in the next project… with the result that we have to assess these skills in a less-than-realistic scenario.
So in the past, the option of starting a client project early on has not helped most learners to learn the other essential aspects of Web Design. But at the same time, working on a real project early on does provides an incredible amount of motivation for applying our coding skills. So the question I’ve been asking myself is: how can we use a client project early on in the process to build our coding skills as well as introduce and build on other essential aspects of web design?
A scaffolded Client Project
One thought I’ve been mulling over the past few days is to start a client project with those learners who are ready, but with a lot more “scaffolding” to guide learners step-by-step through the complete process (we have been scaffolding projects to some degree after reflecting on our web design course last year, but I guess I’m thinking about a step-by-step process through the first client project). This would allow those learners who are keen to develop a real client project to do exactly that, while ensuring that a whole web design process is experienced. At the same time, it will require a commitment from learners to completing all the details (such as client surveys, user testing etc) and not just doing the coding!
Ideally learners would work in groups of 2 or 3, perhaps using the more experienced people in class as consultants on their projects. If there are a number of learners who, after completing their small (3 page) website don’t feel confident to take on a real client, I’m confident we can work out a scenario project and simulate the communication aspects. After all, we’ll still be learning from each others projects throughout the whole process.
The project “scaffolding” would be provided through the facilitators, but using the excellent resources created by current professionals, such as the excellent book Web ReDesign 2.0 – Workflow that works and others. In our class we might follow the workflow outlined in the book begininning with Phase 1: Define the Project, and I’d have an expectation that we’d be committed to completing each Phase as we go and not just jumping straight into the “fun” bits :)
If you’ve got an ideas or criticisms, or have tried something similar, please let me know.
If you’re a learner in our class who’s ready to start your third-project and you think this is a great idea, feel free to get started right away! Pair up with someone in class (even if you both choose to do a project each, it will still be worth pairing up and commit to work together). On Thursday we can talk about some options for client projects. I’ll be working on a handout/post to provide some scaffolding for Phase 1 of our projects, but until then, if you’ve already got a client project in mind, you can certainly get started putting together your own Client Survey (based on resources above from Web ReDesign 2.0 – Workflow that works or from the WebStyleGuide that Kevin linked to, or any other source that you’ve found).