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Notes on the Rhetorical Nature of Web Design
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Notes on the Rhetorical Nature of Web Design


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Notes for a presentation I delivered at the August 2011 Digital Composition Workshop, on the subject of web site design.

Notes for a presentation I delivered at the August 2011 Digital Composition Workshop, on the subject of web site design.

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  • Explain about TRAINING students to see the top menu by not hyperlinking certain words
  • The value of a sticky postPut the most important info at the top of each sidebarGroup sidebar info together (categories and tags)
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    • 1. The Rhetorical Nature ofWeb Designa few preliminary considerations forcolleagues and studentsAmy Goodloe© 2011 All rights reserved.
    • 2. PREFACE What follows are notes for a presentation I shared with colleagues at the PWR Digital Composition Workshop on August 10th, 2011. These notes are part of a larger project I’m working on on the topic of the rhetoric of web design, so please keep that in mind as you move further along in the presentation. TIP: The early slides are meant to be moved through at a brisk pace!
    • 3. COPYRIGHT NOTICEAll the material on these slides is the sole property of Amy Goodloe © 2011 all rights reserved Do not use without permission!
    • 4. The Basic Idea:to inspire you to think rhetorically about web design - reading the web - writing the web
    • 5. Every element of a web site has a rhetorical purpose.
    • 6. graphics layout color navigation organizationand of course... text
    • 7. Everything works together to convey: - a particular mood or tone - a message about the content - a message about the author(ethos)
    • 8. In other words, everyelement of a web sitecommunicates a message...
    • 9. whether the designer intended it to... or not!
    • 10. (this would be a good place for an example, eh?)
    • 11. So how do you design a web sitethat sends the right messages for your rhetorical situation?
    • 12. Start by paying attention to how people read the web.
    • 13. You probably don‟t remember whenyou learned how to navigate a book.
    • 14. (if you haven‟t seen this already, go watch it!)
    • 15. To read a book, you had to figure out elements like: table of contents chapters sections page numbers appendices index (or is that indices?)
    • 16. You also learned to pay attention to a variety of structural and formatting elements for cues tohelp you interpret the meaning of printed text.
    • 17. Structure thesis statementspreviews of main points topic sentences transitions sentence structure headings sub-headings
    • 18. Format alignment(left, centered, right, justified) font type font size bold, italics, underlining color bulleted lists charts and tables margins
    • 19. Structural and formatting elements always convey meaning.
    • 20. The key is making sure they convey the meaning you intend to convey.
    • 21. A little food for thought:If you read the previous slide on aweb page, what meaning would the underlined word you convey?
    • 22. That brings us back to the question:so how do people read on the web?
    • 23. Web sites come in a variety of layouts,possibly more than are available in print formats.
    • 24. But some layouts are more common than others.
    • 25. However, more common doesn„t necessarily mean more readable. (a variety of factors influence web site layout)
    • 26. But if a layout is common, that probably means many web readers have been “trained” to read it. (more on the concept of “training” your readers later!)
    • 27. Research with thermographicimaging shows that readers tend to read web pages in a more or less “F” shaped pattern.
    • 28. Like this:
    • 29. So you wouldn‟t want to put your most brilliantinsights in the lower right corner.
    • 30. (unless, of course, your intention is to mess with readers‟ expectations!) * Not recommended for class web sites!
    • 31. Common web page layout
    • 32. Or
    • 33. For example:
    • 34. Let‟s take a closer look at that top navigation menu.
    • 35. How do you “read” the placement of the items on the menu?
    • 36. Many web readers have been “trained” to expect a home button on the far left and acontact button on the far right.(A “home” button returns readers to the site‟s opening page.)
    • 37. Many web readers also expect on-site linksalong the left, and off-site links (if any) along the right.
    • 38. These are just a few of the many rhetorical decisions you‟ll need tomake when you design a class web site.
    • 39. Now let‟s take another look at that header image.
    • 40. What message does the image convey?
    • 41. Here‟s what I was going for:- iconic image of Marilyn Monroe is typicallyassociated with cultural ideal of femaleheterosexuality- rainbow gradient hints at a possible queerreading- repetition of image underscoresperformative nature of gender
    • 42. Didn‟t “get” that message yourself?
    • 43. No problem.The image also has pretty colors thatblend nicely with the rest of the site.
    • 44. Let‟s take another look.
    • 45. Don‟t underestimate therhetorical power of pretty colors.
    • 46. How much time do you want to spend reading this web site?
    • 47. None!
    • 48. I will talk more about elements likecolor and header images in another presentation.
    • 49. For now, let‟s look at a few other elements of my class web sitesthat illustrate how design conveys meaning. (The following slides contain screenshots of my sites, which discussed in the workshop)
    • 50. Let‟s turn to more pressing concerns: how do YOU design a rhetorically effective web site?
    • 51. To get you started thinking about answers to that question
    • 52. (notice I didn‟t say I would answer it!)
    • 53. I want to do three things:
    • 54. (1) Go over the anatomy of Wordpress - because you‟ll most likely be using Wordpress to build your site - because the anatomy lesson applies to reading and writing a variety of web sites
    • 55. (2) Show you what kinds ofdesign decisions you can make with your own Wordpress site
    • 56. (3) Help you better understand the rhetorical considerations that should inform the way you “write” for web audiences (using a few sample sites, including my own)
    • 57. Continued… My notes on rhetorical considerations for using Wordpress for class web site design are available in a separate presentation If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at: