COJO 258: WRITING AND DESIGNING FOR THE WEB


Learning objectives

Mosaic browser, late 1993

Mosaic, the first popular Web browser, was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in Illinois. NCSA released Mosaic in 1993 and discontinued it in 1997, but you still can download it from NCSA.

Students who successfully complete this course should be able to:

A basic philosophy

Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee (John S. and James L. Knight Foundation)

The World Wide Web as we know it today was born in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee, a software engineer at CERN in Switzerland, envisioned a vast network of interconnected computers that could freely exchange information. In recent years, Berners-Lee has campaigned for the web to continue as a decentralized, open, free and universal means of communication.

In keeping with that founding philosophy, this class emphasizes inexpensive tools to accomplish the complex task of building information websites. The beauty of the Internet is that the person or group with few financial resources can address a global audience, whether it be for political, commercial, community or personal reasons.

Everything you need for this course is available online. Although you are encouraged to buy the textbook mentioned below, you could conceivably take this course without spending a penny for class materials, as long as you have access to a computer. The university has provided each of you with webserver space, often the most expensive part of operating a website.

Along those same lines, this course begins with the most basic method of building a website: writing HTML and CSS code. I believe that expensive, proprietary tools such as Dreamweaver can become an economic barrier to website development and do no better a job than the practiced code writer. Learning HTML and CSS also will prepare you for working with content management systems such as WordPress.

Academic honesty

Hacking

A basic principle of website building is “thou shalt hack.” The World Wide Web is more than 20 years old and has become a mature medium. Web developers offer thousands of code snippets and web techniques that allow you to build in complicated functions such as drop-down menus, photo slide shows and search boxes.

“Thou shalt hack” does not mean:

All of the above defeat the purpose of taking this class: to learn how to write and manage websites using HTML and CSS. It will be a struggle for some of you, but the struggle is worth it.

Plagiarism

It should go without saying that copying content from another site and using it as your own is plagiarism. The university policy on academic integrity states:

Examples of academic dishonesty include, through electronic or any other means, copying from another person, copying from a book or class notes during a closed-book exam, submitting materials authored by or editorially revised by another person but presented as the student’s own work, copying a passage, text, or program code directly from a published source without appropriately citing or recognizing that source.…

You should approach the information on your website as you would a research paper or journalistic story, and that means attributing information to the correct sources in support of your own original work.

Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong on the moon, July 1969.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in July 1960, photographed by Neil Armstrong, who can be seen reflected in Aldrin’s visor. (NASA)

Picture use

A professor at a West Coast university reported last year that the permissions to use images in the latest version of his communication textbook cost him $3,000 — down from $30,000 for the first edition 20 years ago. The reduction in cost was due to the thousands of free images available on the internet.

The web is awash in images that you can use for free, but it pays to become familiar with Creative Commons licensing. When you want to use an image on your website, check the licensing requirements and abide by them. Most often an image is available for use with only an attribution required.

Many organizations post photos to Flickr Commons for use without copyright restrictions. It is a great place to find historical or cultural images you can use without cost. But attribution is always advised. See the photo at right for an example.

Grading

You will be graded according to how well you absorb the concepts in this class and how well you execute the exercises in website building. Your grade will based on the following:

  1. Tests: 25 percent. Please see the reading list for what each test covers.
  2. Midterm personal website: 25 percent.
  3. Final informational website: 40 percent.
  4. Class participation: 10 percent. This includes attendance, attention span, willingness to engage the conversation.

You’ll be assigned a series of small projects leading up to building your final project. More on that to come. Rest assured that I’ll do my best to walk you through these exercises and help you complete them successfully.

The Web Style Guide

Texts

You are not required to buy a textbook for this class. But you will be tested on information from:

You also should become familiar with W3 Schools website at www.w3schools.com. This site has tutorials for learning HTML and CSS, the basic code we will use to write web pages. It also includes reference pages of HTML tags, CSS syntax and character entities, as well as routines you can include in your pages.

Many other useful resources are available on the Internet. See the Links section of this website for more information.

The lab

This class will require a good deal of time at the computer, several hours a week outside of class for adept students. Many of you will need more “seat time.” Ambitious and deeply interested students may find themselves living the classic hacker’s existence: sleeping on the floor and eating vending machine chimichangas for breakfast.

You should use your own computers for coding tasks. The text editor we will use in this class, Sublime Text, is available for free, and it comes in Windows and Mac versions. That and a browser are all you will need to begin writing web pages.

The computer lab in OEC 312 offers large-screen monitors on machines loaded with all the software such as PhotoShop and Illustrator, extremely useful programs for producing Web assets.

Open lab hours will be posted and will begin during the second week of the semester.

Other necessities