So it looks like I'm back for another year of hard work, drinking excess amounts of coffee, producing designs and developing code. This week's work is probably going to be a little bit sparse, as I'm still getting settled into the way of uni life, as well as working to finish off my last piece of client work before I dedicate myself more fully to producing high quality work. Watch this space folks, things will be picking up around here shortly.
This first week has dropped pretty much all of the final year students straight into the thick of things, both in this module and in others. So what are we looking at in terms of work for the 511 module? The ultimate goal for this year is to produce an awe inspiring Major Project. This week, we had to come up with possible ideas for our Major Project.
Disclaimer: Content is going to be a bit text heavy this week folks. I'll probably go back over it in the coming days and pretty it up but I wanted to get the content up so I can get some feedback on my ideas, rather than make sure I have a beautiful looking Log with nothing to get feedback on.
Major Project Prospects
I can't speak for everyone, but I've actually been quite looking forward to the idea of producing a solid piece of work under my own steam, without having to worry about the client requirements changing, or someone moving the goal posts. As a result I've thought quite a bit about the kind of things I'd like to do. This week we had to mail Chris a list of three ideas for a Major Project. For me, this was largely a case of choosing which of the ideas I've already come up with would make it into the mail.
Rather than bore people with the thought process I undertook in coming up with my ideas and deciding on the three that I chose to send (honestly, half of the ideas came about as spur of the moment ideas, or solutions to problems I've encountered) I think I'll just dive straight to the point this week, and cover the Major Project ideas I've come up with.
Video Conversion/Hosting Service
I've always been something of a developer as opposed to a designer. This prospect would provide a way for me to combine both my design and development skills to provide a useful service, with a visual appeal that would make it easy for users of the site to understand.
With HTML5 becoming increasingly popular more and more people will be looking for an easy to use/implement method of getting their videos online and using them in sites. You can see this happening to some extent with YouTube and Vimeo, both of which provide options to view video using HTML5 as opposed to their traditional Flash implementations.
Unfortunately both of these sites have issues with their implementation as I see it. YouTube and Vimeo both only use the H.264 codec for conversion of video, which is only supported in some browsers (Safari, Chrome and IE9), with browsers such as FireFox and Opera left in the dark. These other browsers lean towards more open video codecs, such as .ogg and .webm formats. Additionally there are limits with regards to the implementation of HTML5 video in web sites. YouTube flat out doesn't support it, and Vimeo only provides a solution based on iframes - something I wouldn't like to use myself as a designer.
What I would like to do is provide a visually appealing and easy to use method for users to upload video to be converted into the various formats needed for a true cross-browser experience (currently .m4a, .webm and .ogg), which will then be viewable both on the site itself as well as embeddable in sites using simple, understandable HTML tags, no need for iframes here. For older browsers that don't support the
<video> tag, a flash fallback would also be used to ensure that the embedded video really is as cross browser friendly as possible.
- Is a topic in which I am greatly interested
- Provides a project in which I can make use of both my design and development skills
- Is a tool that could/should become increasingly popular as HTML5 usage increases
- Video Conversion/Hosting requires a lot of computer power and storage space
- The kind of server required to provide this service may prove prohibitively expensive
- Whilst I like development, I have no idea how to handle server side video conversion (though this may not be the case by the end of the semester based on FET Module Research)
As a student, both in University and of design in general, I often research various topics and materials for use in my written work as well as on my own blog. Keeping track of where I've visited, who I've quoted and when I quoted it can prove to be quite frustrating. Whilst there are various online resources available to help with proper quoting/referencing, such as Andrew Ellisons Harvard Generator these tools still require you to directly access them, something that can be easily forgotten about in the rush to meet deadlines. Additionally not every service provided will store the information you quote/reference which can be frustrating if you need to revisit content at a later date.
The solution I see for this would be to provide a webapp, with an additional bookmarklet, which allows you to either enter content manually, via the webapp, or to partially automate the process by using a bookmarklet. This bookmarklet would be able to automate some of the process, such as entering selected text, the URL of the site you're visiting (along with the Page Title) and the date/time of the visit. In addition it could attempt to gather information about the author if it is made readily available. As the reliability of some content would be questionable, certain fields (e.g. Author) would be editable to ensure that it is correct before being added to the user's collection of quotes and references.
The strength of this would be in it's flexibility, as users would be able to define how their references are laid out. They could make use of the Harvard Referencing System or the APA Referencing System, or any other system necessary and content could be outputted in a myriad of manners such as rich text, plain text, HTML or even Markdown.
- Clearly Defined Target Audience (Students and potentially bloggers)
- Easy to develop
- Easy to maintain
- Easy to expand upon (e.g. adding quotes/references from books based on ISBN Code with user entered data)
- Trying to provide a solution that fits all referencing systems may become problematic (how many referencing systems do people use?)
- Potential security risks with user entered data
- Finding an available domain name may be an issue
- Pre-existing solutions (a lot of similar solutions already exist)
URL Shortening Service
There are a lot of URL Shortening services already, which is why this particular idea is the last of my 3 that I am listing. The reason it beats out the other handful of ideas I have is that this service would be aimed directly at the design community, as opposed to a publicly available service. Why? To help avoid issues like these.
The problem with publicly available URL shortening services is that you have no idea what the link you're clicking on will take them to. It could be the latest and greatest in Web Design advancements, or it could be something that you really don't want to see. With a service dedicated to a specific community there is a reassurance that what you're clicking on will be what you expect it to be. This is one of the reasons many members of the design (and indeed other) community are opting to use their own shortening services, as it provides a level of assurance that public services don't always provide.
To provide an easy way to ensure that the site doesn't get overloaded by users, and to ensure that members are part of the design community, this service would be invite only. This would help ensure only designers would have access to the service but also helps in terms of scalability, and would help ensure that server/bandwidth issues are kept to a minimum.
- Provides assurances with regards to quality/relevance of links posted
- Accountability, as shortened links would be attache to your account, abuse the privileges you have and you could use them
- Invite Only helps ensure only designers are allowed to use the service
- Invite Only also helps ensure that the server can handle the current user base
- Potential for analytics based on clicks (to track popularity of your links)
- Potential for popular/recent links to be made available on the site's main page, helping spread design information in more areas
- Could help form a useful hub for design related information
- Primary use would be Twitter, which is rolling out it's own url shortening service
- Potential for user abuse
- Scalability could be an issue
- Getting users to use it could be an issue (as mentioned above, many users already have their own url shortening services)
In addition to the three I've listed above there are a few other ideas I've had, based on stuff I've seen but would like to take further or based on personal frustration. These ideas are:
- @font-face hosting - Like Google WebFonts but with a wider selection of fonts available.
- Online invoicing webapp - I liked the idea of this at the time, but I don't have enough of an interest it in to to pursue it.