Balancing the Elements of an Effective Website

Thanks to the Gateway course, the Capstone project isn’t the first time I’ve had to create an online writing portfolio. With that being said, it has proven to be more of a challenge than my first attempt three semesters ago. As open-ended as the Gateway was, it still provided students a framework for a site that was, plainly, an academic writing portfolio. Almost every website had a home page from which you could easily navigate to the “Why I Write,” “Repurposing,” and “Remediation” pieces. This framework definitely took some of the stress out of creating the portfolio and allowed students to focus almost entirely on their writing.

This template doesn’t exist in the Capstone, and—in contrast—the implicit goal of most students (myself included) is to make a website that is more than just an academic portfolio. Thus, the challenge becomes making a website with a greater purpose and appeal than just being a portfolio, while still ensuring that it properly functions as a Capstone portfolio (because that’s still what it is).

On top of this challenge, basic elements are important to consider in designing a website that is effective in terms of both aesthetic and substance. I’ve had to wrestle with whether to have either a single home page with different strips that the reader can scroll down or a simple home page with tabs laid out across the top (as I did in my Gateway portfolio). Another thing I’ve considered is having videos / audio cue automatically upon opening the site. This is often something that annoys me with news and media websites, but at the same time it offers an opportunity to create atmosphere—through sports commentary—right when the reader opens the site.

Throughout all of this, I have had to ensure that I don’t lose track of the most important part of the website: the content. As fun as gimmicks and aesthetic flares are to create, it has been essential to ensure that none of these distract from making a site that streamlines the reading process for my audience. This aspect has proven the key consideration in the final weeks of my project, and is something that I hope to have fully conquered by the time all of my writing is complete.

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