A short, focused tech project

Introduction

PUB607 is the MPub program’s Publishing Technology Project course.

The course will be run in two 4-week sessions, one in September and one in January, to precede the PUB605 Fall and PUB606 Spring project courses.

The Publishing Tech Project’s goals are to provide a context in which MPub students can:

  • gain hands-on experience working with a range of digital technologies representing the state-of-the-art;
  • gain experience working on a decent-sized, structured IT project full of the kind of ambiguities and unknowns that typically characterize such projects;
  • develop an appreciation of documentation-driven project management;
  • experiment with new technologies without serious (business) consequences.

The backbone of the Project is documentation. You will begin with documentation, proceed by documenting what you are doing and why, and end with a document that reports on what you have achieved and what you have learned. This strategy gives you the means of organizing your priorities, keeping your team-members abreast of all new thinking and development, keeps a record of your decisions and rationales, and provides a means of evaluating what you’ve achieved.

Topics

During the course of the project you will learn important Web publishing skills, such as setting up your own domain name and installing a Web application. What is happening when your type a URL and hit Enter? How does your browser know how to render the page?

We will then go over some Web technologies, including the basics that you need for authoring and styling a Web page (HTML + CSS). We’ll look at the structural elements that form a page, how to organize content so that it can be easily styled, and the different ways that we can make things look different. That is, we will learn how to specify a design idea (a mock-up) and actually implement it onto the Web.

Finally, we will explore ways of loading content into your site that was not created natively within WordPress. What are your options if someone sends you a *shudder* MS Word document and you want to publish it online?

The Project

The fall 607 project is at once simple and ambitious: you will  design and implement a Website using a widely used content management system (WordPress). The site must simultaneously showcase your newly acquired skills in Web publishing and provide an effective means for communicating your project documentation.

You will have to build on a “vanilla” WordPress Theme or build a new one entirely from scratch. You cannot simply install a pre-built theme or build on a more advanced theme. You can, however, use WordPress Plugins, as long as they do not style the page for you (we will talk more about what this means in class).

Your Website must be focused on the presentation of your project documentation, but it must do so in a way that is both esthetically pleasing and easy to interpret. You must consider the different types of elements that will form part of your documentation (i.e., text, images, code snippets, etc.) and think of ways of presenting these in a Website. Consider how to render these elements, but also how they will fit together (will you put things into few or many pages? will things all be embedded in the page or will they they pop out? how will you demonstrate your progress?)

Scheduled Sessions

We will meet every Friday morning. Additionally, your team will meet itself, and you’ll meet with the instructor, many more times along the way. Assignments from Friday are generally due Wednesday morning the following week, unless otherwise noted. The following is a rough outline for the project:

Session 1. Friday Sept 5

Logistics and plan, followed by the building blocks of the Web: understanding the architecture and mechanisms on which the Web is built.

Assignments:

  1. Name your team.
  2. Write a project proposal: what is your overall plan and vision for the site? how will you divide the work? do you have a timeline of when things will be done by?  (only partial/incomplete draft due this week).
  3. Do some mock-ups of what your Website might look like
  4. Sign up and register a Domain with ReclaimHosting
  5. Begin orienting yourself to WordPress. Do research; compile requirements.

Session 1½. Wednesday Sept 10

In the Publishing Lab, a practical workshop on HTML+CSS, useful not just for the Web but also for books (see McCoy 2013).

Assignments:

  1. Create a two page Website (try out some of your planned elements!) (Due in class)
  2. Read through the Theme Development documentation and the Template Hierarchy documentation, as well as find your own resources on WordPress Theme Development.
  3. Create sections, pages, and otherwise configure WordPress to match your proposed site.
  4. Document your experiences; finalize your proposal.

Session 2. Friday Sept 12

An in-depth discussion of content management, with special attention given to  WordPress. We will walk through a WordPress installation, look at some of the characteristics of WordPress themes.

Assignments:

  1. Create a WordPress theme and implement it on your WordPress site.
  2. Document your progress, including screenshots and code snippets
  3. Revise your proposal as needed

Session 3. Friday Sept 19

An overview of digital formats for the Web and offline. An explanation of the difference between proprietary and open formats, and a look the role of standards (why they are so great, and why so many people ignore them). We will look at what is involved in converting between them.

Assignments:

  1. Convert a Word (.docx) file to HTML and then back to Word. Post all versions on your site.
  2. Document the process and the differences you find between the original and the final version.
  3. Continue developing your WordPress theme
  4. Document your progress and stumbling blocks.
  5. Update your proposal as needed

Session 4. Friday Sept 26

A look at what makes Webpages discoverable and what increases the likelihood of them being found through search engines (Search Engine Optimization, SEO). How does page rank work? How do you make your Website more search engine friendly?

Assignments:

  1. Finalize documentation.
  2. Prepare for presentation.

Final Session: Friday October 3

The presentation will be in the afternoon of Friday the 3rd (room TBA). Each team will take the stage to show and tell about its project. Everyone must have a speaking role. You should plan your presentation to showcase your Website, but most importantly to highlight some of the challenges you faced and the lessons you learnt.

Grading:

Grades are divided as follows:

  • Weekly assignments – 10%
  • Website content – 45%
  • Website implementation – 35%
  • Presentation – 10%

Website content refers to the quality, completeness, and level of reflection in your documentation. Website implementation refers not just to the final outcome, but also to the process that lead to its achievement. The level of complexity of your chosen design will be taken into consideration (i.e., a complex design that was not implemented perfectly may receive the same or even higher marks than a simple design that is flawless).

While the assignments, Website, and presentations will receive a group grade, each team member will receive an individual grade for the course based on their contributions to the group. Along with the final project, each student will also turn in an anonymous memo to the instructor outlining each member’s contribution.