Sunday, May 3, 2009

Final report

★ Introduction
In my final project, I am trying to design a website to help Chinese students who havea plan to study abroad to deal with a series of troublesome matters by themselves. Inmy website, I provide as much all kinds of information about University of Limerick,UL and Ireland as possible.I introduce two major problems: study and life in Ireland in my website. For study part,I give the new students the whole detail process of application of both offer andaccommodation. I also introduce specific information of some programs. For the lifepart, daily life of Ireland is necessary. Some Chinese activities and international tripsare also what I want to introduce. In addition, I design a forum to build a goodinteraction and communication between old students and new future students. In thisforum, new students can ask many kinds of questions about Ireland and University ofLimerick, while old students can post their positive and negative experiences and givefuture students some helpful suggestions. Especially, for students who majored insame or similar programs, they can discuss and communicate their viewpoints aboutcourses and old students may point out a clearer line for study.From the interactive design angle, I want to be appliance Widget to my website andmake it more interactive, like iGoogle and Netvibes. When users begin to access tomy website, they find all the information are divided into many different parts andevery part is put in a small square. Users can choose and add these squares they needto their personal homepages, and later, they can check information only they need. Ialso want to use RSS in my website. RSS solves a problem for people who regularlyuse the web. It allows users to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content fromthe sites they are interested in. users can save time by not needing to visit each siteindividually and ensure privacy [1]. Furthermore, I also use a form like Google Alertthat can send emails contain information users interested in. Especially, in forum part,all the people post their ideas and these posts also are delivered to other users’ emailsaddress, however, before posting they have to choose a type for their writing. Becauseother users can choose what kinds information they want, like Google Alert. Users canget only information they chose including videos and news when they check emails.
★ Background & Motivation
Nowadays, with the development of society and economy, a huge number of Chinesestudents plan to study abroad to pursuit higher education and richer life experiences.As the table shown, number of students who study abroad is an increased tendencyevery year, especially from 2000, the number keeps more than 100 thousand per year.At the end of 2007, the number is up to 144,500 and 1,212,000 totally. To 2008, thenumber of students who study abroad grow up to 179,800 that is 209 times than thatof 1978.1978 2000-2005 2007 2008number 860 100,000↑ 144,500 179,800total 860 930,000↑ 1,212,000(Data come from Ministry of Education of China)However, although the number of students who study abroad or who would like to goabroad is enormous, most of Chinese students do not know how to deal with relevantissues, even they are studying in some countries. They often confuse to face thesequestions. In my opinion, the causes are manifolds, but can be reduced to three asfollows:Firstly, there are many study abroad agencies in China that can help students to do allthe things about study abroad, such as, how to apply for major, how to chooseuniversity, and how to get Visa in China. Thus, some students have to depend onstudy abroad agencies despite of sometimes they have cheat actions and high fee,about 1500Euro to 3000Euro. It seems like solve the entire problem, however, in myopinion, there exist two questions at least. Students know nothing about theuniversities and countries they apply for. The process of application also can helpthem to understand different education systems and teaching methods of differentuniversities, and local conditions and custom of other countries. So it is good anduseful for students to solve issues of study abroad by themselves. The other thing isthat they can save high intermediary cost.Secondly, some students want to do this by themselves. But there is a vast gap oneducation system between China and western countries. For example, if students inEurope want to enter a university to study, they need to application; however, there isno corresponding term “application” in Chinese. In China, if students want to enteruniversity to study whatever undergraduates or postgraduates, they have to attend astrict exam and the result has to higher admission cut-offs. So for Chinese students,application system in western education society is unacquainted.The third restriction is language. As a matter of fact, most students can understandEnglish in China, especially for students in Universities. But it is not very confidentfor them to apply for offers because the application is a very important thing and theydo not want it has any problem. On the other hand, the diplomas and degrees areneeded to translated into English or other languages and certificated in notary office.It need higher language requirement.
★ Aim
The biggest aim of my project is to make future Chinese students to get plenty ofuseful and timely information in interactive way. As I mentioned before, I divide allthe information into several different parts and put every part in a square. Users canchoose and delete squares according to their need in different time span. This form isfocus on interactive feature and comes from the perspective of users’ view. In mywebsite, users can as much free as possible to organize time and space in their ownhomepages. It also can help users to escape tiresomely long and useless informationover a certain period of time. For example, during the application, some users needapplication information and they can drag square “application” in their places. Andthen, they own offer. They want to know situation about Ireland and they can deletesquare “application” and drag square “life in Ireland” in their places. In other words,when they browse my website they see things they want.My second aim is to make Chinese students know that the process of study abroadmay troublesome but not difficult and they are able to do this by themselves. In mywebsite, I provide all kinds of information and formulations adopted in tacklingrelevant problems about University Limerick.
★ Research Method
I plan to use UCD process, user-centered design. User-centered design (UCD) is anapproach that puts the intended users at the centre of design and development [2].Users engage in design by using the project and talking with designers. Feedback ofusers can enhance the development of the project. There are four stages of UCDprocess: understand users, draw requirements, prototype and evaluation. All thesestages are carried out in an iterative process and aim of the process is to realizeusability objectives of the project. Simply speaking, UCD seeks to answer questionsabout users and their tasks and goals, and then use the findings to drive developmentand design [3].
● Understand Users
I want to involve possible users from this part, because I must know and understandall the users’ need. To achieve this purpose, I did a survey to interview Chinesestudents who are in China now. The feedback of questionnaires will come back byFacebook, Xiaonei and QQ and other Internet communication tools. By the way, tomy great joy, I have a friend who works for a language school in China and she canhelp me to do questionnaires and interview for her students. In addition, I interviewsome Chinese students in Ireland who are studying English in English languagecentre in UL. Furthermore, I follow several study abroad blogs (I put link in referencepart) where I can catch some useful information from posts of writers and questionsfrom intended abroad students. In this process, I think I can get large amount of needand relevant feedback of users.
● Draw Requirements
In this part, I restore and analyze the collected information in qualitative way(Qualitative analysis uses numerical methods to ascertain the magnitude, amount, orsize of something [4].) and quantitative way (Quantitative analysis focuses on thenature of something and can be represented by themes, patterns, and stories [5]).Specifically speaking, all the information is divided into different kinds and each kindwill be a square I mentioned before in my website. For example, I put all data aboutaccommodation together, and then these data will compose the content of square“accommodation”.When I get contents of all the squares, sketching is necessary and important. It canhelp me to finish prototype quickly.
● Prototype
In this part, I begin to make my website. At first, I want to use some regular softwareto edit web and images, such as, Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop and 3D Max and soon.Secondly, some new techniques and theories are also needed to research and that cansupport interactive features in my website, such as, RSS, RSS feed, Widget, GoogleAlert and so on.--RSS: RSS is abbreviations of Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. It isa lightweight XML format designed for sharing headlines and other Webcontent. It can deliver regularly changing web content [6].--RSS reader: It can allow users to grab the RSS feeds from various sites and displaythem for users to read and use [7].RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows users to easilystay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites they are interested in.users can save time by not needing to visit each site individually and ensure privacy[8]. RSS set up an information platform that can make everybody be a potentialinformation poster. Once users subscribe some content in RSS readers, thesecontents will automatically update and appear in their RSS readers. This techniquecan save users’ time and they do not spend more time in browse all the content ofwebsites. It also can stick Twitter, Facebook and other net tools.--Widget: Widget is a mini internet application. Widgets can easily be integrated in aweb page, blog or profile by inserting a small chunk of code that will be offered usersat the site of their chosen widget [10]. The examples of application of widget areiGoogle and Netvibes. As we can see from these two websites, we can download thisprogram that can be used to create more interactive features, such as showing latestnews, the weather, a calendar, a dictionary, a map program, a calculator, desktopnotes, photo viewers, or even a language translator, and other things. I will beappliance this technique to personal customized homepages for users. In thehomepages, users can pick up, add and remove every widget.--Google Alert: Google Alert is an example I am learning. I plan to apply this kindform to my website, especially, the forum part. As known, Google Alert can sendusers emails the latest content is added to the Google database every day. It is veryeasy to keep up with any topics users’ interested in. For my forum, all the people canpost all kinds of information that was sent to all the users by email. However, usersdo not need some information. So I want to adopt the way about Google Alert andmake users can pick up what information they need and get relevant emails. Emailscan bring users latest news, websites, links and videos of some key points they need.Lastly, progression of my texture work, I have to pay attention to some problems:--When users access to the homepage in my website, they are able to image what isit and know how to carry out the next step--Usage of language should be short but clear--Frame of design should be sparing--information and data provided should be reliable and accurate--To escape common mistakes.
● Evaluation
In this part, many aspects of website are needed to test. It main includes effectivenessand efficiency of the project and satisfaction of users. How easy can users accept theproject and how easy do users master the project. Users experience and feedback arealso important for the project. For these aim, I will invite some Chinese students whoare in language centre and in China to test my website and tell me the feedback andexperiences including positive points and negative points. According to theirfeedback, I redesign and correct my website. And then, I invite them to test it again.In this process, I plan to use Heuristics for evaluation method that contains 10 parts asfollows:1. Visibility of system statusThe system should always keep users informed about what is going on, throughappropriate feedback within reasonable time.2. Match between system and the real worldThe system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and conceptsfamiliar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions,making information appear in a natural and logical order.3. User control and freedomUsers often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked"emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through anextended dialogue. Support undo and redo.4. Consistency and standardsUsers should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions meanthe same thing. Follow platform conventions.5. Error preventionEven better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problemfrom occurring in the first place.6. Recognition rather than recallMake objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to rememberinformation from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of thesystem should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.7. Flexibility and efficiency of useAccelerators
-- unseen by the novice user
-- may often speed up the interaction for theexpert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experiencedusers. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.8. Aesthetic and minimalist designDialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Everyextra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of informationand diminishes their relative visibility.9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errorsError messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicatethe problem, and constructively suggest a solution.10. Help and documentationEven though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may benecessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy tosearch, focused on the user's task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be toolarge.
★ Outline of project
In my website, at first, it is better for users to sign up and own accounts that are easyto make personal customized homepages.And then, there is a homepage: in the upper half part, there are many squares that areinformation types (shown in Picture 1), so far, I have 15 squares, Travel, Application,Accommodation, Country, Entertainment, Courses, Language Centre, News of UL,International Office, Forum, Weather, Calendar, Links, Certification. As feedbackcoming back, I can make adjustments any time according to the requirements of users.When mouse move to each square, there appears a tip to account for what is thesquare and its usage.Picture 1The other half part is users’ personal parts. Users can add every square or widgetfrom upper half according to their need. At this time, users have their own personalcustomized homepages (Picture 2). When users access to this page, they can seeinformation and new they interested in only.Picture 2For the widget “forum”, all the users can post all kinds of information that were sentto all the users by email. Having consideration for users, not all the users need allkinds of information. So posters have to choose a type or types the new post belongedto before uploading it. And then, users can choose what type or types’ posts they wantto get by email, like Google Alert (Picture 3, 4). This method saves Internet recoursesand information recourses; decreases users’ heavy burden on useless post.Picture 3Picture 4In addition, I intend to use a very popular function, RSS in my website.Once users subscribe some messages in RSS readers (Picture 5), these contents willautomatically appear in their RSS readers. Users do not have to log in or refresh mywebsite again and again. When latest news comes, RSS readers can remind users. Forexample, in a period of time, a user only wants to know messages aboutaccommodation. She or he can subscript “Accommodation”, all the new messagesabout accommodation will appear in his or her RSS reader. She or he does not needbrowse the website. It is convenient and practical.Picture 5
★ Future Job
Website design is a complex and complicated assignment. I will have many kinds’jobs to do.
-- Firstly, I will continue to track my users or possible users and get more feedbackand requirements. And then, I will analyze and interpret these data and restorethem into different types on qualitative method and quantitative method.According to these classified data, widgets will be corrected and confirmed thefinal outcome. For each widget, I will find solutions in all the ways, such asvisiting website of UL, interviewing some relevant people, and consulting somereference books and other things. When I get all solutions, I will sketch everydetail of each widget on papers.-- The another important thing is to learn how realize these interactive features. Forexample how apply RSS to my website; how realize alternative emails; and howdrag widgets according to users’ need. At the same time, I will continue myreading that listed in reference part and continue to learn skills and technologiesfor website, for example, graphics, layout, frame and colors etc in website.Meanwhile, I also enhance my knowledge about some software I mentioned, suchas Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop and 3D Max.
-- Next step is to make my website with the knowledge I learned.
-- At last, I will evaluate my project with Heuristics evaluation method I mentioned.It has ten factors to test my website. I will make some questions and assignmentaccording to these ten factors and ask my users to complete them. In this process,my website will be tested by all kinds of aspects including usability, effectiveness;reliability of information provided, stability of interactive features. And then, Ican get some feedback from my users for the website and the feedback will beused to develop the website. The process is iteration and repeat until theprospective aim will be met.
★ Improvement
● From content angle, now my website only refer to University of Limerick. Mynext aim is to extend my introduction to other universities in Ireland. Maybe oneday, its range will include universities in Europe even all over the world.
● From technology angle, I will find and apply more suitable techniques to rich mywebsite and make it more interactive and close to users.
● From interactive features angle, as a matter of fact, there are many interactivefeatures to explore. However, I have current interactive features with somelimitation on technology, my personal ability and other factors. In the future, Iwill continue to try to explore and realize new features on website.
★ Reference
1. Color Theory and Modeling for Computer Graphics, Visualization, and MultimediaApplicationsHaim Levkowitz University of Massachusetts Lowell Lowell, Massachusetts,USAKluwer Academic Publishers Boston/Dordrecht/London
2. Building Findable Websites – Web Standards, SEO, and BeyondAarron Wslter
3. Graphics and Web Page DesignJon M. Duff and James L. Mohler
4. Creating Dynamic Web Sites – A Webmaster’s Guide to Interactive MultimediaScott FisherAddison- Wesley Developers Press
[4][5] Interaction Design – Beyond Human-Computer Interaction 2nd Edition

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ye's Presentation

Hi all,

My presentation is here: Welcome to your commence.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Discussion 5 User and User and Interface

On Tuesday, Tong and I hold a discussion about “user and user interface”. At first, thanks to our Gabriela’s direction during the discussion. Sorry to that I have a bad guiding.

In discussion, the thing I like best is the development of Microsoft Word. I think this is a very good doucument to demonstrate the improvement and role of interface. As we discuss, a good interface can bring convience to users and make things effective and efficient. However, excessive features also bring some trouble things, such as direction words of these may be confuse users and sometimes users can not identify which choice is what they want and try several times. Furthermore, some features are in the sub-menu, which makes it more difficult for users to interaction.

Secondly, in my opinion, some features should be used in different ways in different countries or cultures. For example, when I came Ireland I found the function “AutoCorrect” that is best for me now. When users have mistake of spelling or grammar it will have a green or red curve to remind users “You make a mistake”, which is useful for people whose mother language is not English. However, this function plays fewer roles because there is not spelling problem in Chinese and the grammar is not as complex as English. So this function may change into another one that is suit for Chinese in China or other languages in other countries.

These two points are I want to add.

Thanks to Gabriela’s help again.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Discussion 4: User generated content, Modding & Gaming communities

In this discussion, I noticed a conflict between traditional forms of media and new forms of media. Both of them have their own advantages that are good for users and disadvantages that are not good for users.

With development of technology, Internet is becoming more and more popular that may influence traditional form of media. At beginning of this century, some people said: “newspaper is dying”, which can show traditional form of media had a bad future. However, in my opinion, participation of new forms of media do not limit the traditional ones but also support them and make the both forms prosperous together. For example, in China, TV is one of the biggest entertainments. There is a popular TV program that is about how to make up for girls. This program is performed both on TV (traditional form) and on a website (new form). The program video online is very suit for people who do not have time to watch this program on time. The producer of this program also publishes corresponding magazines (traditional form). The magazine has a huge circulation because of influence of this programm on TV and online. Some audiences often ask some questions in feedback bar in video online and the program answers questions on TV or in magazines.

I think that is a good integration of muliti-media. New form not only support the old two ones but also enrich media form, which can meet all kinds of users’ need.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Discussion1: Lifelogging –Memory and Forgetting

With development of technology, I think memory can be recorded completely by lifelogging or other new things some day. Development of technology is indeterminate and difficult to image, such as, 100 years ago, people could not image that it spends only 8 hours in getting Sweden from China.

However, as Miriam and Shelagh said, memory is more than storage: in essence it must be activated. Intelligent as machines or technologies are, they can not think about something as human being. In my opinion, memory is not only a record but a process of thinking.
Lifelogging is able to record people’s memory but it can not identify what is people‘s want and what is not. Sometimes people may want to forget some bad things. Maybe a famous man’s memory will be made a document because he made a big contribution in some fields. How the technology identify which is job experience or privacy? I do not think machine can do that.

So I think machines cannot replace human being‘s thinking ability.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Creative learning about me

In my opinion, creative learning is a new way to study through Internet, some software and cyberspace, such as, Delicious bookmarks and Moodle. This is a revolution of education. It can help me to enlarged my world and widen my knowledge quickly and conveniently.

For example, I have a course "Professional Issues in Interactive Media". In this class, my teacher Joe asked us to have an account of Moodle. In moodle, there is much useful information about this course, such as, lecture slides, forum and so on. Teacher can post useful podcast that can help students whose first language is not English to study. In forum, students can post feedback and ask questions of each lecture, such as, what are your ideas of this lecture? Which part do you interested in?

I think it is a good method to students who study in foreign countries, because they may not understand all the contents in class. They can learn something they miss in class. It is also suit for timid students who are bashful to discuss a question in public.

The second advantage is that we can communicate with students who are in USA. We can have chance to share different cultures, thinking and methods.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Research

In my final project, I am trying to design a website to help Chinese students who have a plan to study abroad deal with a series of troublesome matters by themselves, such as, how to apply for offer and how to get Visa and so on. The aim of my website is supplying plenty of useful and specific information including both life and study to future students. I am looking for some specific data, such as, how many Chinese students study abroad per year, how fast the number of students study abroad grow? I think it can enhance my project's feasibility.

I plan to use the method "UCD"--"user-centred design".

At the beginning, I have interviews with future students who are studying English in English language centre in UL. Because they will enter our university to study and I think it is very difficult to interview students in China. In this process, I think I can get large amount of need of users. I am thinking that whether I contact with the leader of language centre and ask some questions.

After getting this information, I begin to make my website. In this step, I want to use some useful software, for example, Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop and 3D Max and so on. Now I am improving these skills.

Next, I invite students who are also in language centre to test my website and tell me the advantages and disadvantages. According to their feedback, I repair my website. And then, I invite them to test it again.

At last, after the circle design, I hope my website is effective and efficient. Users can get information that they want and satisfaction. Actually, I hope that current students in language centre use my website to apply for our university. If this dream comes true, I want to talk with the leaders of International Office and discuss that whether can my website put in our university?