Category Archives: group work

class is over: what next?

When looking at your sites, everyone says the same thing: These are all viable ideas.

They really are. Whether they’re viable big or viable small, they’re all viable. These sites are yours. You created them. If you want to take them to the next level–turn them into something even more amazing–it is up to you now. There are essentially three things that would need to happen to turn this from a class project into an actual website:

1) Buy a domain name. That’s the first step to a “real” site: being able to type the site name into the browser and there it is. No more messing around with group numbers and subdomains of the j-incubator.net site (soon to be upgraded and pretty at the root level, by the way). Domains cost anywhere from $15 a year to totally free, depending on where you buy from and the plan you choose. There are literally hundreds of places you can buy your domain name from. Many are shady, some are good. One thing: You may not be able to get your domain that you’ve been talking about all semester. Roll with that punch and rename your site if you need to.

Cheapest is GoDaddy, who are huge and corporate and I hear good things and bad things about them all the time. Your mileage may vary.

I buy my domains from DirectNIC, but don’t host with them. They do offer hosting plans. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I don’t host with them. But I don’t.

For one-stop shopping (we’ll get to why that’s useful in a second), I recommend BlueHost. That’s who hosts the j-incubator site, and who’s hosting more and more of the projects I’m working on (for instance, whatifwewon.com is hosted there).

1) Find a web host. Your free ride is over folks, sorry. You’ll have to pay for hosting your site. When doing so, there are a couple things to consider. The first is storage space. You want a good amount of space. But remember, they tend to offer storage in the gigabytes, and you’re still in the megabyte realm, so anything should be fine for now. More important is bandwidth: the amount they’ll charge for information to move to and out of your site. This can cost significant amounts if you go over (kind of like cell minutes). However, bigger places, like BlueHost, are starting to offer unlimited plans for everything.

More to consider–and this is really about how confident you are in your abilities (you’ll learn! fast! really!!) is how much hand holding a site offers in terms of setup, configuration, etc. There are fancy things you have to do to attach a hosting site to a domain name (called DNS settings), and if you don’t feel up to it, you want to make sure you’re buying from the same place you’ll be hosting with. That’s why I recommended BlueHost. They do a good job of hooking everything up, and have a very complete control panel for setting up e-mail addresses, along with various dodads and whatnots.

3. Move your site. Most hosts can migrate a preexisting site to their servers. Since the j-incubator is on BlueHost, again, this should be very painlessly easy. However, this is something that I’ll probably have to assist with, because I’ll have to give permission for the move, but I am VERY VERY VERY happy to help.

4. (OK, four steps apparently). Once you’re on your own server with your own domain, you’re as “real” a site as anyone else. You’ll be able to set up e-mail addresses, do MUCH more configuration than you could before, and make real mistakes that have real consequences. You will learn to not be afraid of FTP. You will learn a lot about configuring the backend of a site–you’ll learn some basic database skills, for instance. You will learn a lot. So: Do not be afraid!! You have all learned so much. You can learn anything.

All that said, I’m happy to help with anything else as well. Just drop a line. You know how to reach me.

Good luck, and thanks for a wonderful semester.

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Your Presentations Next Week

As we approach the end of class (and the Thanksgiving weekend), it’s important that we check in on your site as you prepare to populate it with content (or, in the case of the content that’s already there, evaluate it’s value). It is also a time to strongly consider the presentation of the site itself, and to fine-tune the look & feel, because content is only as good as the site that showcases it. And it’s also crucial, of course, that you consider audience at every juncture as well.

The format for this presentation will be similar to our last, with slides and a group presentation. However at this point you should also be able to walk us through various aspects of your site itself, and be able to answer questions about the content and the look/feel of the site overall. Because of this, we will reserve the end of your presentation for a walkthrough of the site. Prepare one of your team members to “drive” this walkthrough, taking over the projection computer. Map out what it is you want to talk about and highlight, however, so that your presentation remains professional and succinct.

As with last time, you will give both a presentation and hand in a report, signed by all group members.

presentation & report

The Site Idea and its Relationship to Content
–Be as succinct and clear as possible. Start with a one or two-sentence description of the site.
–Succinctly, how does content fulfill that mission.
–In other words: why are you featuring what you’re featuring?

The Content Itself
–What types of content do you see regularly appearing on your site? And why?
–Written pieces: How? Why? What kind?
–Multimedia pieces: How? Why? What kind?
–Interactive pieces: How? Why? What kind?
–Social media: What’s your strategy? Why? How?
–How do you plan on grouping the various content types?
–In other words, what are the various sections or categories on your site?
–How do these categories work to clearly state at a hierarchical level what your site is all about?
–Give five specific examples of content currently on your site and five specific examples of content still to come.

Content and its Relationship to Audience
This is important, so I will bold it: invite some of your audience to preview your site. Get as much feedback as you can from them regarding the content. For this section include bios/info about the people you talked with for the report and give their specific feedback there.
–Who is the audience you are targeting and why? BE SPECIFIC.
–What content do you think they are looking for online, and why would they come to you to get it?
–How did you come to this conclusion?
–When you previewed your site to audience members, what was their reaction to the content?
–How did they feel it could improve?
–What other content did they feel could go in the site?
–What other feedback did they get?

Look & Feel
–Why does your site look the way it does?
–How does your site classify and display content?
–How can a user access the various pieces of content–is there a menu system that makes sense?
–How does the way your site looks compliment the content?

Walkthrough

The walkthrough of your site should highlight the following:
–demonstrate the way that a user would access various content types
–highlight some of the unique ways your site is presenting its content
–show off your site’s look & feel and explain why it works the way it does
–demonstrate the categories your content falls into

Slides

Follow the same process as before in terms of uploading your slides to Flickr and creating a set and slideshow. Your slides should correspond to the major sections of your presentation. Create as many as you see fit.

Link your slideshow and paste your report in the comments of this entry.

your work for next week

Your teams have been assembled. Now you need to get together and start making plans on how to move forward. You have a very important document due next week, an editorial plan for your site. This plan needs to include the following and must be signed by every member of your team:

  1. A detailed description of your site, the audience/community you hope to engage with, and a walkthrough of three personas interacting with the site (these should be further refined from the initial pitch and include the input of all team members).
  2. Interviews with three actual members of the audience/community you’re targeting, about the space your site is operating in, not the site itself.
  3. Informed by these interviews, a discussion of the types of stories you would like to do and at least five specific story ideas.
  4. A plan for the integration of tools and media beyond simple text and blogging.
  5. A basic plan for marketing your site: How will people find out about it?
  6. An overall plan for the equal distribution of labor: How will you share the reporting work? The data entry? The coding? The images/video/audio? The marketing?
  7. Please post your reports here, but also bring in a hard copy that–everybody now–has been signed by every member of your group