Being in my last semester of university I needed to be thinking about future job prospects. Keeping in mind the outline of the DIGC 302 subject, which was to spend the semester working on a project of my choice, I wanted to create a digital artefact which would demonstrate the skills I have developed over my degree and would be something to showcase to future employees. I began designing websites in the digital media subjects as submissions for digital artefact assignments. It is something that I have grown to be really passionate about and I feel is a very valuable skill to have.
The past 2 years I have worked at Champagnat Catholic College in an administrative role. While this job is only part time and not necessarily the field I want to have a career in, I made the staff aware of these skills I have developed through my degree in hopes of gaining the most out of the job, further develop my skills, expand my portfolio and potentially lead to future jobs. As a result an opportunity came up at the beginning of the semester for me to create a website for Champagnat Catholic College’s trade training centre and thus became the focus of this assignment.
This process initially began with a meeting with the director of the trade training centre where we discussed the brief and vision for the website. My official aim was to create an aesthetically pleasing website for Champagnat Catholic College’s trade training centre (TTC) that includes all information on the centre and has a clean and easy to follow layout. As this was a job I was being paid for, I felt it was extremely important to work closely with the staff involved and to make sure I met their criteria to a high standard.
According to the article, “Designing a school website: contents, structure, and responsiveness” by Klein and Tubin, school websites are an effective tool because they help expand a school’s integration with outside communities which is an important process in a school’s success. A website can be a great marketing tool, increasing a school’s capability for positioning itself in the public, providing better control of ‘word of mouth’ communication and building a solid reputation. The site contributes to the school’s reputation and accountability as content on the website can show that the school is a good place to learn as it becomes the online “face” of the school. It is also a channel of communication for reaching different groups of clients such as current and prospective parents, students, staff and businesses (Klein & Tubin, 2007, pg. 191). These points were the main focus of the social utility of the website. I wanted it to be just as beneficial for the school as it was for those who would be visiting the website. Henry Jenkins who has done a lot of research on participatory culture and digital media believes schools need to operate more along the principles of collective intelligence and social networking. Rather than learning taking place at different stages, your education is an integrated ecosystem. Networks are created by students and teachers reaching outside their community (parents, educators from other schools, experts, businesses, etc.) to create a participatory platform to share information, advice and feedback (Jenkins, 2012). A large aspect of the TTC is outsourcing businesses related to the trade subjects (e.g. mechanics for automotive students) so in this sense, the website will serve as the platform for a participatory culture between the school and those involved. It is also a way to promote the TTC to the community and potentially gain more businesses and students involved with the centre
Deciding the platform for the website was my next step. I have experience with WordPress as it is the site I use for my blog however I have had more practice with Wix as it is the platform I have used for my past website design assignments. There is an official VET website which has links to the other trade training schools websites in NSW. I was to use these as a guide in terms of information to include however the physical design of the website was open to my own creativity and abilities. These websites were mostly done on WordPress however I felt that I could produce better content with Wix.
Wix is a flash-based open-source web tool which allows users to create websites without coding (Kirkwood & Evans, 2011, pg. 108). I have no experience or knowledge on coding so this is the main reason I prefer to use Wix over other website building software. It focuses more on the visual design and utility of creating a website and gives users a lot of creative freedom using simple editing tools. Once the website is finished, the director of the TTC wants staff to be able to contribute and add to the websites themselves. It is extremely easy to learn to use and maintain a website with the ability to use templates or start from scratch. I have also created a simple “user guide” to pass onto the staff of the TTC with little tips and tricks for editing the website. Although limited to certain features, you can create websites on a free account which was another criteria the school set.
Flow is a state of consciousness that can be experienced by people who are deeply involved in an enjoyable activity. It is characterised by common elements; a balance between the challenges of an activity and the skills required to meet those challenges; clear goals and feedback; concentration on the task at hand; a sense of control; a merging of action and awareness; a loss of self-consciousness; a distorted sense of time; and the autotelic experience (Pace, 2004, pg. 360). The effectiveness of a website can be understood and analysed by looking at the web-flow of users. A free Wix app called Web-Stat that gives a website creator the analytics of your site. Aspects such as numbers of visitors in real time, maps, visitor details, page view report and click path reports are regularly sent. By adding this app to the TTC site, I will be able to watch how people respond to the website and make appropriate changes if need be.
I found two templates which I felt fit the design I had in mind for the TTC website and used them as a starting point. I chose a very simple colour scheme for the website as I wanted it to have a very clean and simple look to it. The background is white, with black and yellow detailing, bringing in the school colours. This is my favourite stage in designing a website as I enjoy the more creative aspects of the process, however it is easy to get caught up in changing and editing the visual design. Being on a deadline meant I had to be more efficient and decisive when making the creative decisions. This was an important lesson and experience for me in preparation for future jobs.
The school creates almost everything on google suit therefore the website was primarily a place to link staff, students, parents, etc. to the relevant content. The director of the TTC writes monthly newsletters on the centre and hard copies are placed in the office and not many people are reading them. I decided this would be a beneficial addition to the website as Wix gives you the ability to add a blog. While this idea sounded great in theory the director does not have the skills to regularly add blog posts to the site and while he would like to learn, does not currently have time. As a temporary solution, I have linked the google doc version of the newsletters to the website. This has taught me that even the best ideas won’t always work and it sometimes comes down to the employer’s decision, whether you agree with it or not. But as Ted says, “fail fast and fail often”.
Another issue I encountered was the name of the website. The TTC’s official name is Ngalangiil Ngarandhii, an aboriginal phrase meaning ‘a place to sit and learn’. While this name is perfectly suited to the TTC and has a strong significance due to the school’s involvement with indigenous communities, it is hard to say, remember and spell. If even one letter is missing or incorrect, the website does not come up in google searches. Search engine optimisation (SEO) are strategies and techniques used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high ranking placement in the results page of search engines. Wix allows users to manage websites SEO’s while editing by customising google titles for your websites pages. Therefore I ensured that while the websites does come up when you enter Ngalangiil Ngarandhii, it also shows if you enter ‘Champagnat Catholic College trade training centre’ as it is the more likely search of visitors.
Wanting the website too look aesthetically pleasing I tried to include as many relevant images as possible. Unfortunately, the school has very little photographs and the ones they do have, aren’t the best quality. It was suggested that I take some photos at the school myself however there are legal issues involved as most students are under 18 and I am not an official staff member, even though I am being paid as an employee. While this has been a slight hinderance, I have organised for the school to buy 4 GoPros to take photos and record footage of the school which I can then put into a video for the website.
Since finishing the TTC website, I have now been asked to create on online business directory for the school. I will be applying the skills I have learnt during this assignment to this new project and will hopefully gain some useful business skills. Overall I am really happy and proud of the final product. It has been a great learning experience and it has not only developed my skills in digital media but has taught me many things about working in the real world.
Jenkins, H., 2012. Textual poachers: Television fans and participatory culture. Routledge.
Kirkwood, H. and Evans, K., 2012. Embedded librarianship and virtual environments in entrepreneurship information literacy: A case study. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 17(1), pp.106-116.
Pace, S., 2004. A grounded theory of the flow experiences of Web users.International journal of human-computer studies, 60(3), pp.327-363.
Tubin, D. and Klein, S., 2007. Designing a school website: Contents, structure, and responsiveness. Planning and Changing, 38(3/4), p.191.