Blog 7: Course Survey

Reflect on what you learned this semester.

To be entirely honest, I learned nothing. Everything taught in this class was already part of my previous curriculum, I felt like I didn’t want to put much effort into the class or classwork because I had no gain, and I was hoping to be challenged more. I understand that this isn’t really your fault, however I do wish that I would have been allowed to pursue my own interests and teach myself more advanced frameworks such as Tailwind.

Something that I noticed the class had the most challenge with was connecting HTML with the CSS, especially in the Zen Garden project. I think this was because of the project more so than the people. I wasn’t a fan of that project because I felt it was teaching the wrong lessons to the students. Why would you create a roundabout solution to a problem like background images for all your images when you can easily use an <img> tag and create a class for it? The entire Zen Garden project was like that, which also didn’t help that they were using Dreamweaver, but I’ll get on to that later.

I feel that it just wasn’t necessary to make people find odd solutions to extremely specific and non-practical problems, when we could have been focusing on creating a real site for the first time. Throwing people into something like the Zen Garden after all they did was small warm ups created way too high of a standard for those students experiences, which also drove them away from ever wanting to do web design again after this class.

I strongly feel that we spent too much time on the core HTML, web design was one of the very first things we learned when we got to Bradford School, and the class was only 8 weeks long. In that time we not only learned core HTML and CSS, but we also started moving into JavaScript, light jQuery, and fully learned to integrate Bootstrap into our design. At the time, nobody really made websites that “looked good” per se, but it made me realize that building the foundation of coding skills before designing is very important. I know that this is a design class, but a lot of students ended up getting caught up not understanding what they could and couldn’t do with their designs, because they lacked the core knowledge of what was possible inside of the website without much further learning or skills.

I think a simple solution would be to have people take an actual basic web design class in the computer science division, however I fully understand that there is no room left in the major to add any classes at all. It’s a tough problem, and I really imagine that this is hard to teach to people who are not inclined to the coding side of things, but in the current graphic design market, the difference in not only pay but also hire ability is very major.

As I said before, the Zen Garden project in my opinion should be completely disposed of. I’ve already explained why previously, but when talking to people who have taken the class in the past or have been taking the class with me, the consensus seems pretty highly that Zen Garden was frustrating, and not in a successfully challenging way.

I also feel that the process work simply doesn’t work when it comes to the nature of what we’re designing. Websites are interactive and can never really be translated to a drawing or a static image. I much preferred the idea of making mood boards and style guides rather than mock ups and thumbnail drawings as anything I ever put into drawing never ended up anything like how my website looked. This is also reflective on me however, as I have never really liked process work because I would much rather go into a software and just start trying things. To be honest, my Virtual Reality website I did in Webflow was done entirely without the use of any of the previous process work I did and without ever making a mockup, yet I’m very happy with it and felt it took no more time than any other website done by people who did the process work. Also, the process work reflects way too large of a percentage of our grade in the later projects.

For example, I can think of good uses of mockups. When helping my friend Anthony who is a software engineer design his website for his DJ business recently, I created mockups for him so that he could translate those mockups to the site himself. That was necessary only because Anthony wasn’t the one designing and coding the website, and needed my help as he would be the first to tell you he has no sense for design. Since we were designing this by hand with no back end development done by others, I really don’t think I would need to do weeks worth of process work. If we would cut out all of the process work, we could focus more on actually learning the web design aspects on a deeper level.

First of all, I really need to say that there are many fantastic alternatives to Dreamweaver that cost absolutely nothing, both for coding and for FTP software. A great example is Brackets, which was the software that we learned at Bradford School. It’s simple, runs at very low intensity, completely modular, and compatible with all systems. I used brackets and only brackets for the entirety of our coding this semester, and I’ve used it ever since I’ve studied at Bradford. For FTP I used winSCP, a free open source software that makes connecting to FTP servers take literally seconds, and the file navigation is way smoother and much more easy to run and understand. winSCP is not compatible with Mac software, so I would recommend FileZilla instead, as it’s only slightly worse than winSCP but way way better than Dreamweaver. I installed Dreamweaver to try it out and then had uninstalled it right after this semester, it’s clunky, full of bugs, super intensive, and the FTP is a literal nightmare. Honestly, if you ask anyone whose done web design here in the CompSci division, or anyone like my friend Anthony, people will never ever use Dreamweaver. Even the CSS designer in Dreamweaver caused way more problems than it solved, and people who used it understood coding even less because of it.

Now about Webflow, I have to say that I personally don’t hate it, but I still don’t like using it for a web design class like this. I feel that I created a really nice website inside of Webflow, but my biggest problem is that the website I made is a simple cookie cutter solution. Every website made in a website creator either looks the same or way too similar due to the boundaries within the software. Websites like Webflow, Wix, and especially WordPress feel like bandages over much bigger wounds. After looking at everyone's site, it feels like nobody really understands what web design is, most people still don’t get exactly “why” the navbar is where it is, but since Webflow had a drag and drop for a nav bar, they used it anyways. It creates a disconnect between the theory behind the design and the practicality, as nobody really understands the practical flow of the design and why things are supposed to be like that. Web design is very much it’s own language in this sense.

My suggestion would be that Webflow should be kept in for one project and only one project, and that it should not be kept as the final project. One of my biggest complaints recently and the reason that I have not done any mockups or any process work for project 3 is because I simply know that I will never in my life use the portfolio website I created in Webflow only because it’s in Webflow. I know I have the ability to create a much more dynamic and interactive website and I feel way too limited in Webflow to allow myself to use it. Due to this, I have absolutely no drive to create something for project 3 and feel like I don’t have any effort to give to it. Students should be given to option to do their final using any of the methods they previously learned instead of being constricted in their usage.

I first want to say that none of this at all is in attempt to attack your teaching or you as a person. I respect the work you’ve done and the effort you have put into trying to teach this subject, and I definitely don’t want to ruin our relationship as we move into classes in the future. I’ve felt like I stated myself as someone with a lot of experience but then underdelivered on the projects due to my lack of motivation to do them, which probably made me look stupid. I’ve also felt that it’s been unfair that I’ve been held to the same level of projects as the class, such as having to make basic and bland CSS-less websites when I knew how to do that easily. It felt like my learning experience was being sacrificed for the sake of the rest of the class, when I could have been spending this time pushing myself way further.

One thing I feel I definitely need to point out however is the project pacing of this class. One of the most draining and stressful parts of this semester for almost every student taking web design was dealing with starting another project while being in the middle of another one. If I was only taking web design, then I feel it wouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem, however having to create process work for project two, while also still starting and finishing coding on project one, while also having 15 revised spreads and 5 new spreads for a typography II book for Shelle due Monday, while also creating a sculpture due in a week in 3D design, while also writing a 5 page summary of a 400 page book called Guns, Germs, and Steel due that Thursday was way way too much work and too much stress for me. This is a major factor on why I never got my process work for Project 2 done, and also why I’ve been so stressed and fringed all semester on top of everything.

I also feel that it’s not your fault that you had such low engagement with students this semester. Due to the online class everyone started the semester already demotivated to do the work, and that plus the lack of breaks and breathing time made everyone go into a slog they were unable to get out of all semester, myself included. I feel engagement will definitely increase when we get back to normal class operation, and I’m excited to have you in person for Motion Design this fall semester. I’ve done work in After Effects before, including some GIF making and some effects for videos I’ve done, but I still definitely have a lot to learn.

I hope that I made this feedback detailed enough to really understand what I’m feeling, thanks for reading it all the way.

Edinboro University Web Design Class Spring 2021