Stephanie has posted the first task in her 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course. It is:
The basic task is “to review web design and layout guidelines that support readability and usability, and to apply these guidelines to our blog design.”
Specific Design Guidelines for Individual Entries
- Use paragraphs — the shorter, the better: In reviewing previous entries, I think that I do use shorter paragraphs (at least shorter than I use for my academic writing)
- Use dark text on a light background: The WordPress.com template I have chosen has a white background and I use primarily black text
- Use bullets: I’m not sure how much I do this. I think I use them more in my blog than I use them in other forms of writing, but I don’t know if I use them enough here (one I’ll have to keep an eye out for).
- Use bold headlines to break up sections of text: I rarely use this one, but my entries tend not to really be long enough to warrant it (I believe anyway). Trying it with this entry.
- Use bold to highlight key terms and phrases: I don’t do much of this either. I think it stems from the fact that most of my writing is academic in nature and we don’t add emphasis much in academic writing (so I don’t do it much here either). I’ll try and keep it in mind though.
- Include images to add visual interest, illustrate points, and to break up text: I always try to include at least one image in my entries. It is something I picked up during my participation in the 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger series that Steve Dembo led.
- Divide your layout into sections for easy scanning, separating them with a lot of white (or blank) space: I don’t have much control over this due to my using the free WordPress.com service. Although I like to think that I have selected a template that is pretty good on this front (and I’ve tried not to make it too busy by adding too many widgets and links).
- Compare color schemes of most major sites and notice how the colors improve readability: Again, limited control due to my using the free WordPress.com service. I do like the fact that the template I have chosen gives this main area the look of standing out a bit because the external has a grayish background.
- Use a Sans Serif typeface as it allows for easy reading on the web: I have no idea what typeface this default font is?!?
Advanced Recommendations for Overall Blog Format
- Use pages for organizing your blog content. I do this only for my special features, such as Meandering Out Loud, VSM Newsletter, and VSM Podcasts. I have often considered creating a “must reads” or “top reads” page that included all of the entries from the blog that I thought were my greatest hits (so to speak) or entries that someone new to my blog should read.
- Is your blog accessible to people with disabilities? I have no idea. Is there anyone out there with a screen reader or with a background in this area (Ray or Bob maybe) who would care to comment?
- Look at examples of good web design and notice how they use white space, fonts, and sections. Again, limited control due to my using the free WordPress.com service. I do like that the template I have chosen has a white background for the entries, while the pages and links and other widgets have a gray background. I really like the custom header that the folks at the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE) designed for me (and come to think of it, that is another page that I should add).
- Finally, review your blog design and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the purpose of my blog? I would say the purpose of my blog is twofold. The first is to provide a place for me to play with ideas related to K-12 online learning prior to them being ready to be published in formal academic outlets. The second is that the blog has kind of grown into a one-stop-shop for people involved in K-12 distance education, specifically K-12 online learning, to get information about what is going on in the field. It is actually kind of funny because the first one was intentional and the second one just kind of happened (and the more I do of the second one, the larger the community seems to grow, but the less time I have to do the first one).
- What do I want readers/learners to get when they visit my site? I’m not sure how this is different from the first question, or at least different from the response I gave. If I could clarify a bit, I’d like for more readers to interact with some of the ideas that I post (i.e., dealing with that first purpose). However, if people are visiting my blog for the second purpose than I want them to be able to find the information easily when they visit this site.
- Consider your answer to the last question and then ask yourself: Does my blog layout and design emphasize what it is that I want my readers/learners to get when they visit? Is that information included in a visually prominent way when someone first visits my blog, or is it hidden in a list of links or on some other page? This is a tough one, because I think I do a very good job on the second purpose right now. The entry titles are direct, the images are often organizational, and I do a good job with tagging and categorizing the entries to make it easy for someone to find something. On the first purpose (i.e., getting people to interact with the ideas I play with), well that is more difficult. I think because so much of my readership is here for the second purpose, when I do post entries that are more related to the first purpose them get lost in the shuffle.For example, in the past seven days I posted three entries that were focused on playing with ideas: Greatest Benefits Of K-12 Online Learning And Visible Learning, Guest Blogger – It’s Time For A Latino Online Education Revolution, and Education As We Know It Is Finished – Or Misleading News Titles. In posting each of these entries I was hoping for interaction, but did not receive a single comment on any of them (although I did get one trackback from someone who re-posted the first – thanks Darren!). However, in the past seven days I have also posted 30 different blog entries (one of the busiest weeks of blogging that I have had in a long time, maybe ever). This means that 27 of those 30 entries were items that were simply informing the community about something. You can see how the entries designed for interaction may have gotten lost – regardless if people were receiving them on the blog, in their RSS readers or in their inboxes. I’m not sure how to address that issue, but I do believe it has little to do with layout and design.
An interesting start to this 7 Days to a Better EduBlog journey. And some tips that I am going to have to try to incorporate when it comes to writing the individual entries.