Monday, November 27, 2006

 

History Websites

Aurore: The Mystery of the Martyred Child: The site greets the viewer with a cheerful Welcome! and a photo of a church. The border around the photo is very wide and prevents the viewer from being able to see the full photo without scolling down. This seems unecessary, by reducing the picture frame, the full photo would be clearly visible. Upon scrolling down, text appears. The text is broken up into smaller paragraphs which make it much more readable and thought the colour contrast is dull (black text on white background) it is clear. The introduction outlines the topic of the site and provides basic information of the content. The menu for other pages in the site, located at the bottom, could be more user-friendly if it were larger and used a different colour contrast than grey on black.

History Wired: This site is designed for those more familar with web use than me and perhaps this is the reason why I personally find it unappealing. It also took a far while to lad without a very impressive result. The format and colour contrast at first appear welcoming and professional, yet interaction with the site is less rewarding. The small topic icons could be improved and the grid system for locating topics of interest was unpleasant and frustrating. The merest whisper of the mouse sends you flying across the grid, although likely you were nowhere near your intended target in any case. As the mouse moves on the grid lines from the topic boxes at the top go to the arrow indicating that your item on the grid corresponds to that/those topics. While the idea behind this is good it requires development to be more user friendly, even if only to make the lines more visible. The lefthand side of the menu is almost all blank except for a small 'search' box and a drop box with general topics. It remains unclear whether these are intended to be used together. Clicking on an area and selecting 'zoom in' allows the viewer to see the titles for the differnt sections which if helpful if you are already near what you are looking for. If not it can take a far bit of manuvering to cover the grid.

Imagining the French Revolution
: This site was more to my liking. A select few icons represented the content of the site (essays, images, discussion, about). This allowed for a clear overview of the site. Hovering on each brought a larger picture to depict the topic. This allowed the viewer to feel more engaged in the site. Similarly when on accompaning pages, every effort is made to keep the content from requiring scrolling. This allows for a quick and clear survey of the content. The essays are formatted well to make them easy to read and they are broken up into multiple pages. Though this does make the reading less daunting because the viewer doesn't face a deluge of text, it is sometimes annoying to flip back and forth between pages.

National Geographic: Remembering Pearl Harbor: This site opens to a 'collage' first page, full of various materials not all linked to the topic. Moving icons and advertisments fail to create a cohesive feel to the page. Despite this, the site is easy to use. Unpredicted audio content on several pages led to minor embarasment in the computer lab but in a more private environment could add to the experience of the site. When moving through the story of the attack, I was constantly distracted by the ads flashing just below. Although funding for projects can be difficult I can't condone flashing advertisments for trips to Australia and Vonage while depicting the tragic events of Pearl Harbour and World War II.

The Valley of the Shadow: This site opens well, with a visuals, title, and clear icon to enter the site. Going into the site a list of content is presented as well as, perhaps most importantly, a guide to using it which provides a clear description and links to content as well as teacher resources. The site was easy to navigate and provided information in an easy to read format that would allow students to use the site.

Though the content of sites is essential to their usefulness, structure and useability can not be underdeveloped. Basics such as readability and layout are critical to the user's ability to make use of the site. In history we understand that it isn't just the argument that you are making but the manner in which you present it that affects your mark. This premise remains true when establishing history websites. Considering the reluctance of many historians to use web resources and the need for sites accessible to students the composition of a site becomes critically important. Likely the information presented on a site can be found elsewhere, it is in making the information easily accessible and interesting that a site has merit.

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