Post 2: The Perception and Placement of Truth

Our readings for this week centered on the importance of typography and how we cite sources online.

Errol Morris asks a question on whether the choice of a typeface — font, weight, style — can determine which text we believe out of multiple selections.  I found his example of the student who changed his essay font to be rather interesting.  Does the difference between Times New Roman and Georgia play a substantial role in how people view an article?  I’m not convinced that typeface selection can alter the “perception of truth” to an extreme extent; I’d like to see more studies on this first.  There are, however, some fonts that do evoke emotion or memory.  I relate Comic Sans to my childhood; that was the cool font to use.  Times New Roman reminds me of academic papers because most professors instruct you to use that font, 12 point, double spaced.  Perhaps typeface does affect the portrayal of facts, but I would expect a scholar of the presented subject to see through any style embellishment.

Where I believe Morris’ article gains traction is in web design.  Last week’s readings showed how style is important in both website credibility and in keeping people interested and on the page.  Academics won’t want to see an website written in Comic Sans, but the title and navigation can have an “era appropriate” typeface.  For example, a website on the medieval England could find it appropriate to use a “Ye Olde English” style font for the title, but the bulk of the content should be written in a more professional typeface.

Next comes the problem with footnotes and endnotes: where should they be placed?  Marco Arment may have found a potential solution:

The Technology of a Better Footnote

Alan Jacobs, The Technology of a Better Footnote, The Atlantic, March 13 2012.

This idea is great for web functionality and design.  A large issue I have with footnotes and endnotes is that they disrupt the flow of reading.  It doesn’t seem natural to me to pause where I am reading in a book or online, have to scroll or flip to the note, then find my place back in the text.  Dr. Petrik outlined many of the problems academics have with footnotes on the web in her essay .  Arment has essentially eliminated many issues with “hover” notes, or “pop-up” as Dr. Petrik describes.  What he does not address is the issue of HOW footnotes are presented.  Dr. Petrik mentions superscripted footnotes as the print-based standard, yet Arment uses ellipses in his design.  This begs the question on whether there should be a standard for footnote design.  Should there be continuity between print-based and web-based footnotes?

 

On a the portfolio-front: What is your preference between using a text editor to code the site or using Dreamweaver?  I like Dreamweaver’s live preview function, but I think it’s less confusing to use a text editor.  I’ve started getting a little lost with Dreamweaver’s multiple options and buttons.  I’m working on putting up my portfolio page now.  I’ve gotten the basic layout how I want it, but haven’t quite improved the prettier things yet.  It’s still a work in progress!

I commented this week on Elizabeth’s blog and Steve’s blog.

Post 1: Overcoming Creative Block

“Nothing puckers up the creative juices like pressuring yourself to think of one superior idea.” – White Space is Not Your Enemy, pg. 16

Having taken multiple art classes in high school and as an undergrad, I was aware that one of my biggest hurdles is in brainstorming the perfect design.  This week I began working on our Building a Webpage Practicum and realized that I have not overcome this problem at all.  The easy part is creating work; anyone can learn to code a page.  The difficulty begins when there is no objective or end goal in mind of how you want the page to look – multiple columns, color scheme, images, content, and so on.  In my limited experience with web design, I find that it is more difficult than simple painting a picture because websites are interactive.  Web sites need to be responsive; they are not static.

Rebecca Hagen and Kim Golombisky discuss several methods to help stimulate creativity, one being to create sketches.  Other ideas include creating storyboards, site maps and wireframes, and creating roughs & comps.  For digital historians, I believe that site maps and wireframes prove to be the most useful design sketches for creating webpages, particularly the structure.  By first creating a site map, you can plan out the content that your website will include: the amount of pages, the amount of subpages, where pages connect, and the content included on each page.  Using CHNM’s Teachinghistory.org as an example, the site map would start with the home page.  Next, each major heading/link such as Teaching Materials, History Content, and Best Practices would branch from the home page.  Each branched page then becomes more complex with additional, specific branchings like Website Reviews and Beyond the Textbook.  While site maps help develop the hierarchy and organizational structure, wireframes help plan the layout.  This is a barebones, how the website will look.  Imagine drawing boxes to represent where the header will be placed, where the navigation is located, and how content is presented on the screen.

In addition to the actual design, you must also be concerned with credibility.  How do you ensure that your website is easily viewed as credible without sacrificing design?  To me this will be a historians biggest obstacle.  With current debates surrounding academic publishing online and academic blogging, credibility is a major component in moving forward in digital humanities.  As Don Norman’s findings show, attractive things work better.  There is a psychological piece to web design that digital humanists must not ignore, so finding a balance between creating a credible website by academic standards and a visually appealing site is important.

There are many pieces to designing a website that I was not aware of.  By focusing too much the perfect blend of credibility, attractiveness, and content, I believe that I am thinking myself into a creative stump.  My work so far is not aesthetically appealing, as I have no real concept in mind, but at least I’m practicing piecing together HTML and CSS.  I like the suggestion in White Space is Not Your Enemy to first try things on paper.  It is much easier to change a design on paper than it is to spend hours determining the perfect HTML/CSS combination only to change your mind.  You can also compare multiple ideas easier on paper.  I’m excited to learn more about the design process and to begin learning best practices in creating digital history sites.

 

I commented this week on Michael’s post and Stephanie’s post.

Setting up the Blog

I received my first email yesterday from Dr. Petrik about HIST 697: Creating History in New Media.  I’ve been spending today setting up my blog with WordPress, registering a domain name, and finding a host.  I’ve used free WordPress blogs in the past, but this is the first time I’ve done anything more advanced with the platform.

First, I researched web hosting services as many also provide domain name purchasing assistance.  I decided to use webhostingforstudents.com, a service that specializes in hosting websites for assignments, projects, and portfolios.  Webhostingforstudents.com costs $25/year for students with an additional $15 fee to purchase a domain name.  A benefit of using this site is that they automatically connect the DNS — as long as purchased through them — and host.

To accommodate the increase in subscriptions after launching, webhostingforstudents.com formed a partnership with Siteground, a larger web hosting service provider.  Working with Siteground prevents an increase in traffic to one student site from affecting speed or other functionality of another.

The company has a partnership with Treehouse, an online service that teaches users web design, font end development, WordPress development, and other coding languages.  Treehouse users also receive one free month hosting on webhostingforstudents.com along with other perks.

Other sites that I have looked at for DNS registration or web hosting include

In addition to creating my blog, I have also downloaded an FTP, file transfer protocol.  Dr. Petrik suggested Transmit for Mac (I’m a Mac girl); however, I wanted to try a free FTP client before purchasing Transmit.  I decided on Cyberduck after reading several reviews; Windows users can also download Cyberduck.  A popular free alternative to Cyberduck is FileZilla, which I believe has better Windows support than OS X.  Paid (cheaper) alternatives to Transmit include Yummy FTP and Flow.

I look forward to meeting everyone.  See you all the first day of class!