A website is a living thing–not an artifact–an arrangement of parts that changes under every person’s touch. Each user arrives with a unique combination of browser, interests, and circumstances. Sites grow and contract as editors add new stories and reorganize old ones. Interaction design offers a way of making sense of this unruly, flowing, evolving environment.
During this course we will learn to speak a new language–that of screen-based craft. This course aims to:
- Introduce students to writing hand-coded HTML and CSS as it applies to the practice of web design
- Empower students to analyze and critique interfaces from the perspectives of both user and designer
- Develop the student’s ability to use essential design software to create interfaces and assets
- Illuminate the thought process of the user by discussing and applying fundamental concepts of usability design
This course provides an overview of interaction design and web development, as background for future projects and further study. The course emphasizes process, including sketching, decision-making off of the computer, and the refinement of design concepts. It provides students with exposure to the tools that would help in the building and maintenance of a much larger site.
“It is very much about designing and prototyping and making. When you separate those, I think the final result suffers.” (Jonathan Ive, March 2012)
Topics covered include the fundamentals of website structure and navigation; writing HTML and CSS; working with images; accessibility and usability; web typography, and graphic design for the web. Students will experiment with self-publishing, creating projects driven by their own responses to class materials.
“A special thing happens when designers open up to code, or when coders gain a deeper grasp of design. Suddenly function and beauty starts to blend naturally. This is where interaction design shines both as a creative pursuit and a craft.” (Amit Pitaru)
In the interest of gaining a strong command of the medium, the course focuses on writing HTML and CSS code by hand, avoiding WYSYWIG editors. It takes a typographical, content-centered approach to building sites.
Students need not have any coding background. This class will be a mix of demonstrations, discussion, critiques, and studio working sessions. It requires extensive self-scheduled project work outside of the classroom.
After completing this course, students will be able to:
- Understand fundamental technologies of the web and how they work together to create a website
- Use HTML and CSS to create basic websites with single and multi-column layouts
- Use key tools of interactive design with basic proficiency, including Photoshop, Illustrator, and CSS
- Create hierarchy in an interactive layout in a way that promotes clarity and usability
- Understand the disposition of web users as it applies to creating usable interactive experiences
- Troubleshoot design and technical problems using online and printed resources
This class will be a mix of demonstrations, discussion, critiques, and studio working sessions. It requires extensive self-scheduled project work outside of the classroom.
Projects are student-driven, using prompts as the starting points for more extensive research, asking students to create their own content and to supply their own point of view.
Monday and Thursday, 12:30–2:30 pm, and by appointment.
Please visit my office hours in the first few weeks to go over class progress and to answer any questions about course expectations.
The best way to reach me outside of office hours is through email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please allow one weekday for an email response, though I will try to respond sooner. I will not respond to a technical question emailed the day before a project is due! It is also department policy not to do critiques over email. Plan ahead and take advantage of class time and office hours.
10% Recipe 10% Communicating design 35% Event 35% Narrative 10% Participation
This course uses assigned readings and two required textbooks, which are on a two-hour reserve at the library.
Duckett, Jon. HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1118008188. htmlandcssbook.com
Krug, Steve. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. 3rd ed. Berkeley, Calif.: New Riders, 2014. (The second edition is acceptable, though not ideal.)
Required software + tools
- Google Chrome (preferably the Canary build)
- HTML editing software (see below)
- Paper or sketchbook; pen or pencil
- Scissors or X-Acto knife
- Gluestick or tape
This class’ technical exercises focus on handcoding, which is the best way to understand how the web works. You will have access to a text editor in the Katzen labs. If you are working on your own machine, you will need your own software. Good editors include:
- Adobe Edge Code (Mac, Win)
- Espresso (Mac; unlimited demo)
- Sublime (Mac, Win, Linux; unlimited demo)
- TextWrangler (Mac; free)
- TextMate (Mac; open source)
Do not use a visual editor.
Loss of data is not an excuse. Back up your work. An adequate backup plan involves duplicating your work across three different storage devices, kept in two separate locations.
This course seeks to help students to develop their own working processes. Good final projects come as the result of diligent, structured work earlier in the semester. Do not leave work for the last few weeks. You will need to turn in your process work as part of your grade. Keep versions of your files and paper sketches as they progress.
If you are bringing work on paper for critiques – an excellent idea for sketches, wireframes, and design documentation – remember that other people in the class must be able to see your work and size your paper accordingly. You need not mount any work from this course.
In the interest of efficiency and equity, HTML-based projects will be evaluated using a current build of Chrome Canary on a Mac.
When you turn in your work, you’ll need to make sure that your project is identifiable.
- Put the files into a folder.
- Put your name on the folder, along with the project title.
You may send the following file formats: PDF, HTML/CSS/JS, JPG, PNG, GIF (if you must), MOV, MP4, MP3, AAC, MD, and TXT. Do not send Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator files.
Students are expected to attend scheduled class sessions. One unjustified absence is allowed for the semester. Grounds for excused absences are illness, family emergencies, jury or military service, and religious obligations. Provide documentation for your absence.
Each additional absence will lower the course grade by one step (i.e. from A to A-).
If you are absent, there is generally no need to contact the instructor unless you need the absence excused. Contact a classmate for notes and assignments.
Come to class on time and do not leave early. Excessive tardiness, early departures, excessive break time, and lack of participation in assigned class activities will count as equivalent to half an absence (2=1 absence). Tardiness over a half hour will be counted as one absence.
This course is modeled on the rigor of the graphic design curriculum at American University, which is in turn based on the standards of the graphic design industry. As such, students often find this to be a challenging course in which a significant amount of work must take place in the studio outside of class time. Your instructor will use the following grade scale when evaluating projects.
- A 100–90 (“Wow”) This grade indicates work which is clearly superior. It does not mean “satisfactory” or “adequate.” Such work must reflect an excellent understanding and communication of the material. Projects and exercises must show clear conceptual thinking and successful use of design principles, craft, and technique.
- B 89–80 (“Good”) This grade indicates work that is more than merely satisfactory, reflecting an above average understanding and communication of the material. There may be only minor errors in craft and technique.
- C 79–70 (“Okay”) This grade indicates work which is competent, adequate, and satisfactory in presentation. Such work reflects effective understanding of most of the material covered. There are no excessive errors in craft and technique.
- D 69–60 (“Bad”) This grade indicates work which is unsatisfactory, not competent, or inadequate in terms of presentation or fulfilling the assignment. Projects and exercises which contain serious errors in craft and technique will normally be given this grade.
- F below 60 This grade is assigned for failure to complete an assignment in both a timely and competent manner.
In the classroom
- Silence ringers on phones.
- Keep yourself off headphones, email, texts, and IM. Do not use computers for leisure browsing or work on assignments for other courses.
- Food is not allowed in the studio or in the computer labs. Keep drinks in containers with lids, and set them at the front of the lab, away from computers.
Standards of academic conduct are set forth in the University’s Academic Integrity Code. Please see me or consult the student handbook if you have questions about academic violations described in the Code or as they relate to particular requirements for this course.
Academic Support and Access Center MGC 243, 202-885-3360 supports the academic development and educational goals of all AU students while also providing support to students with disabilities. We offer workshops on topics of interest to all students such as time management, note taking, critical thinking, memory skills, and test taking. Additional support includes free private and group tutoring in many subjects, supplemental instruction, The Math Lab and The Writing Lab.
Counseling Center MGC 214, 202-885-3500 is here to help students make the most of their university experience, both personally and academically. We offer individual and group counseling, urgent care, self-help resources, referrals to private care, as well as programming to help you gain the skills and insight needed to overcome adversity and thrive while you are in college. Contact the Counseling Center to make and appointment in person or by telephone, or visit the Counseling Center page on the AU website for additional information.
Center for Diversity & Inclusion MGC 201, 202-885-3651 is dedicated to enhancing LGBTQ, Multicultural, First Generation, and Women’s experiences on campus and to advance AU’s commitment to respecting & valuing diversity by serving as a resource and liaison to students, staff, and faculty on issues of equity through education, outreach, and advocacy.
OASIS: The Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence 202-885-7070 provides free and confidential advocacy services for anyone in the campus community who experiences sexual assault, dating or domestic violence or stalking.
American University expressly prohibits any form of discriminatory harassment including sexual harassment, dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The university is and equal opportunity, affirmative action institution that operated in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, an individual’s genetic information or any other bases under federal or local laws in its programs and activities.
If you experience any of the above, you have the option of filing a report with the AU Department of Public Safety 202-885-2527 or the Office of the Dean of Students 202-885-3300 email@example.com. Please keep in mind that all faculty and staff – with exception of counselors in the Counseling Center, victim advocates in the Wellness Center, medical providers in the Student Health Center, and ordained clergy in the Kay Spiritual Life Center – who are aware of or witness this conduct are required to report this information to the university, regardless of the location of the incident.
The Writing Center First floor of Bender Library offers free, individual coaching sessions to all AU students. In your 45-minute session, a student writing consultant can help you address your assignments, understand the conventions of academic writing, and learn how to revise and edit your own work. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. Call 202-885-2991 to arrange a session. Meanwhile find handouts, information, and a weekly writer’s blog at the Writing Center website and on Facebook.
International Student & Scholar Services, Batelle 4th Butler Pavilion, Room 410 has resources to support academic success and participation in campus life including academic counseling, support for second language learners, response to questions about visas, immigration status and employment and intercultural programs, clubs and other campus resources.