As ideas for my own personal homepage begin to take shape out of the watery chaos that is my mind this early in the semester, the three themes for the change at whitehouse.gov have actually become quite helpful as a heuristic. I’ll start by briefly summarizing what the three points mean in their original context, and then discuss how that translates to my own projects. Briefly, (and with bullets, because I like a bullet list):
- Communication: “Timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated.”
- Will include video and slideshows, a blog, and email updates (all through a central portal called “The Briefing Room”).
- Transparency: “A window for all Americans into the business of the government.”
- In this case, policy announcements, orders, and proclamations.
- Participation: “We’d also like to hear from you.”
- The review & comment section of the site, including assorted email forms and other commentary options.
Thinking about the “academic homepage” genre:
- Communication: I see this element more or less in the traditional context of “Author Communicates to Audience,” in that I’ll have specific information about myself that I’m trying to get across to multiple audiences. “What do I want to say?” (Tied tightly to “Who am I saying it to?” More on that later.) We’re essentially talking primary content. I’d like to include such as the following: professional blog, podcasts/videos on composition, rhetoric, digital and literary topics), basic course information, a CV, projects I’ve done and that I’m working on, etcetera. I’m thinking along the lines of the kinds of content at Colleague A ‘s Website.
- Transparency: For President Obama, the “clear window” is more political issue than strictly a design issue–that is, he is attempting to draw a clear line between his own administration and that of his predecessor. (And gladly so!) I think that transparency in terms of web design might have just as much to do with the ethos of the author as it does with an obvious navigation system . That is, my materials will need to be honest–I don’t want to purvey myths about myself that my students (present or future), colleagues, administrators, or whomever else manages to trip over the site will later find to be horrifically untrue. At this particular moment, I rather like the balance of professional/academic material and “personal” material that I seem to have struck on this blog–there’s a nice level of transparency (in a revelatory sense) about my personal life that doesn’t take away from my professional ethos. Transparency in navigation and construction would also mean a consistent and obvious (or at least logical) system for circumnavigating the site, much as Carie points out in her own blog. I like graphical symbols (like the PICOL system that Bilgil uses), and hope to integrate them at some level.
- Participation: Traditionally, participation isn’t “the point” of the academic/professional homepage. It’s usually just a digital CV or a document repository. (See, for example, Colleague B’s Website, which is badly designed on a number of marks–there’s no content on screen until you scroll down, and then it’s an inconsistently formatted list of links.) I say why not? Why not have videos and blogs with comment-functions? Why not have some kind of chat function for my office hours? Why not use it as a centerpiece for my own reflection and practice, letting students (undoubtedly the primary audience) have not only a glimpse into the profession, but even a bit of input on what they’d like to see on their professor’s homepage? I use Moodle for course management purposes, so syllabi and course materials would be redundant on a homepage, but having preview information for courses makes obvious sense. A kind of “suggestion box” for site content, special topics courses, or even for texts and projects within regular courses is an idea I’d like to put into play–something that could be a feature of multiple parts of the site, and bring an interactive/participatory element not just to the different elements of the site but to my courses.
I think most of this can be helpfully/similarly applied to other projects. For the church website project, participation has a definite community/audience in mind, but I need to look into how much effort to put into audience “feedback” (like commentary); how much this element may or may not be “worth it” for this type of site & audience will be a critical concern.
Here’s my “Artist Site of the Week” (aka Colleague C’s Website). This follows–according to my experience thus far–the fairly standard “artist webpage” design. A sample of the art, a picture of the artist (maybe), and a very brief explanation of the site/group/artist or whatever. (I note that this has become art-less for the present, although much of Brad’s art can be seen on his faculty page.) Communication & transparency are easy–how participation might come into play is an issue better reserved for the artists themselves, I’d wager. The real question may become, however, would they rather have a homepage that contains/showcases/complements the art or a homepage that becomes part of the art itself (without supplanting it).
Question(s): All of us are professional students, and (I assume) have some experience navigating (or failing to navigate, as the case may be) our professors’ websites. From a student perspective, what do you like to see? What seems to be a waste of your time? What’s the most useful feature you’ve seen in that particular genre?