Working on the design for my final project has been profoundly edifying. I’ve learned, for example, that I am still terrible at HTML.
HTML has rules that I simply don’t understand. How it decides to put things on the page, and what I have to do in what order, remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in an all consuming rage. Some of the problems I’m having seems to be a product of the way that I like to approach building a page. I start by laying out my divs for each section of the page, so the entire layout is coded before I start filling in each piece. This allows me to conceptualize the whole page, and makes configuring the style sheet more straight forward. Unfortunately, it also does strange things if I don’t fill things in in the right order. I started fidgeting with the footer, and it was putting the rule I added above my navbar until I added content to the body section. I don’t know why. There’s clearly some way HTML decides to do page lay out that is consistent, but unknown. I’m also having one hell of a time getting things to fit in the appropriate amount of vertical space. Some of this may be a product of using 960 grid, which seems to like vertically aligned page design (something about columns) more that horizontal. So its going to take time, tinkering, and coffee to make it all work.
On the other hand, I’ve come to appreciate Photoshop more. As I tried to get the basic aesthetics of the lay out put together, I found that I was looking at images for the background with an eye to what I could do in Photoshop. Knowing that I could crop, enhance, recolor, or otherwise alter an image to suit the needs of the page was vastly more useful than I would have imagined before working with the program.
However, I’m still very much aware of the limitations of Photoshop for the kinds of projects I work on. I’m hoping to make my site a narrative walkthrough of the Dachau Liberation Reprisals, making use of the multimedia nature of web design to make the sequence and locations of events less confusing. But this means that most of the images I’m working with are not things I want to Photoshop, other than perhaps cropping them. I’m very, very hesitant to apply any sort of manipulations that might give ammunition to people who would contest the reality of either the nature of the camp at Dachau or the events of the reprisals.
I’m also having some issues with trying to come up with an overall aesthetic for the site. I’m trying to stretch my coding skills, and do something different than the sparse grey, black, and red palette I’ve used for my portfolio page, but I’ve come up against two issues. The first is that my coding skills don’t seem to be up to making things pretty. I’m at the point where I can make something functional without much difficulty, but I can’t necessarily get the page to do what I want, and I’m still a long way from something that looks good. The second issue is that I’m not use some of the aesthetic guidance we’ve received is going to be much of an aid in a project like mine. My photos are all black an white, so they aren’t any help for picking a color palette, and I don’t know that picking a specifically 1940’s looking font is going to be appropriate for the material I’m dealing with.
I think my design is going to need to get away from looking like it has a direct connection to the historical period I’m working with. Explicitly old timey looking design is, at best going to look kitschy, and at worst disrespectful of the subject matter. Instead I think I’m going to go with an aesthetic that’s more museum: clean, sparse, and as professional looking as I can make it. Which likely will wind up being not very.