After learning to negogiate the WWW, students are often overwhelmed by the variety of design choices made available to them. Sometimes, I think they are unduly influenced by them. How do we guide students in this environment without constraining them? I believe that gradually integrating HTML into the curriculum as another or complementary compositional medium rather than as a replacement for text is the way to go. I ask students to produce a conventional paper for the first assignment so I can assess them in the print environment, because the transition to the virtual won't automatically improve their textual skills. But the computer environment may make them reconsider the importance of composition. Students begin to realize that their composition skills (in multiple environments) are transferable and meaningful in other contexts.
The next 309M assignment (in collaborative groups) asked for a one page evaluation regarding the design of a particular Wired magazine (hard copy). I was especially interested in their responses to the unusual color and layout scheme of the magazine. The groups were divided about whether the colors were "appropriate" (none of the students liked the early florescent orange style of the early Wired magazines, though found other colors acceptable or "inventive") and if the articles were readable (from a design perspective).
Design author Edward Tufte recommends that we use a palette of colors "found in nature, especially those on the lighter side, such as blues, yellows and grays of sky and shadow" to represent and illuminate information (90). Tufte's books are terrific design guides and though his recommendation of this palette is understandable, it does not take contemporary college age students into account. Today's students have grown up with MTV and been heavily influenced by the usage of "unnatural" colors. Tufte notes the limitations of color representation on early computer displays, but does not address how American culture has shaped students' awareness of color. I'm not claiming that all students prefer artificial colors over natural ones, but their notion of "familiar" or "natural" colors has shifted. Prior to the class assignment I asked them to read a Handout on Design and the WWW. The groups presented their work to the class and discussed color, composition, graphic use, overall design and text. They also did a similar assignment on an individual basis and had a class discussion about site design. This served as practice for the transition to a WWW evaluation assignment.