Prototype – 3/23/14 Update on the “Stress-Free Zone” Website

Hey everyone, it’s time for another weekly update! The last two weeks were chopped full with work as the USD Web Team got the WordPress site up and I began prototyping the design of the interface for Dr. Mack. This was a very important step for the site as it represents the first internally running version that we can now build up and put our content on!

So first steps first, I quickly went to work seeing what exactly I was allowed (and not allowed) to do on the WordPress site hosted by the institution. Disappointingly, most core features that I’m used to having access to are locked down. The school gives us access to four basic templates, three of which hardly work and are chopped full of CSS bugs. These are all things I’d gladly take the time to fix myself, and in fact, I have done so over countless projects where I’ve worked with WordPress and Joomla. But within the institution’s boundaries, we’re not allowed to touch the CSS code of the installation, which makes troubleshooting and fixing problems impossible.

Header does not stretch width of normal sized screen.
Header does not stretch width of normal sized screen.

Almost every template was broken in some way and while they might not always be large problems, I am the type of person who requires pixel perfection in the sites that he designs. For example, the Blue Orbit template’s background does not stretch to take up the full width of a 1920×1080 screen. Others like Serene have broken and nearly unreadable submenus. The inability to fix these has been incredibly frustrating. I’ve attempted work around after work around, and finally settled on the lesser of the evils. Only one template had few enough issues for me to even use, so I settled on use of that one.

Submenus are broken and unreadable.
Submenus are broken and unreadable.

Once that was decided, I filled out the basic layout of the navigation by adding pages and throwing dummy content onto it. This should give him an idea of the final structure of the site and what each page might look like once it’s completed. I tested various plugins that they give us access to, trying to see how well the YouTube integration plugin worked (it didn’t work, so I created my own workaround by enabling the iframe plugin and embedding YouTube through their new iframe embed code).

First Complete Prototype.
First Complete Prototype.

After all that was complete, I sent it off to Dr. Mack. Dr. Mack said he would talk to the group responsible for the Stress Free Zone site and get their opinion on the current layout and structure. If I get his approval on this iteration, we’ll proceed with adding content; if not, I’ll go back and iterate on whatever changes he and the group desires. All in all, the project is going along well. Despite the complaints, the site Dr. Mack is asking me to bring to light is far easier than previous projects that I’ve been given. Dr. Schlichtman required incredibly complicated auto-aggregating news feeds and databases, Victoria Fu required a beautifully designed site that could out perform and out feature her tumblr blog, John Halaka required hand editing his site built in HTML, and Jan Gist required a site so easy to modify, that anyone could do it. Feature-wise, this site is less complicated than average; and aesthetically, well… I don’t have much I can do there so that’s basically locked in.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with a photo of the current prototype of the site. See you guys again next week!

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