The project to create a digital scholarly edition of Albert Woodman’s World War One diaries has been equally worthwhile and challenging. The collection has two diaries named after their brand name, Wilson and Butterfly. The project team, consists of Masters and PhD students of Digital Humanities in Maynooth University. The abilities of all involved have proved advantageous to the project. However, the most important part of the module and project is the gaining and perfecting of new skills. The new skills included encoding the diary using XML, extensible markup language, creating and editing annotations and named entities, and helping to design the diary webpage itself.
A technical aspect which I was personally involved in was the creation of site wireframes. A wireframe acts as a website’s blueprint or schematic view, essentially showing the skeletal framework. Site wireframes allowed the team to visually perceive the ideas of user interactions and general design. Although I have never designed mockups and wireframes previously, I understood the need to develop my own personal skills while completing the project. The project manager, Shane McGarry allowed an open platform for submissions. Any team member with an idea could present it using softwares or programmes which they found suitable.
I chose Balsamiq Mockups as the programme to create the wire frames. The programme is advertised on the internet as a “zenware”, software which totally immerses the user. The software has a small learning curve for a user, a very sleek design and simple to use graphical boxes. As a complete beginner in this area of design, I was appreciative of the software’s easy to install nature, pleasant looking design and in-depth instructions.
The project team have been constantly working on the Albert Woodman diary during the second semester. The ideas regarding interaction and design had been decided during previous meetings including ideas of functional and nonfunctional requirements. All of these requirements would need to be presented using the wireframes.
The drag and drop feature of Balsamiq allows for mobile and browser view. I began the mockups by bringing a browser picture into the window. Further elements could now be placed over the browser window to represent a real web page. The addition of a text box to one side and an image viewer on the other, brought the browser up to team requirements. However, additional buttons and elements were still needed.
The wireframes I produced were based around three main ideas:
Transcription only page – as shown on the image below. The page has a main bar at the top with links towards other sections of the website. The main transcription, as per its importance, is placed in the center of the page, with next and previous buttons to the center to navigate through the library. The idea of navigation was always important to the project, the calendar to the right also helps with this idea, allowing for greater leaps through the diary. One interesting aspect we mused about was adding the option to turn on and off annotations. This would be a useful addition to help a more standard reading of the text, incase a user would prefer to have a read only version. These buttons are placed to the side of the transcription along with “place in diary” and an option to cite.
Side by Side view – a rather simple idea for the representation of a diary, but an important one. Instead of merely reading a large block of text, a user can become more immersed in the product itself. Trying to understand Woodman’s own writing and linking it together with the transcription adds to the user experience overall. The image below also shows the idea of annotations being pop up menus which hold additional information. The coloured aspect was only used to show the difference between named entities and annotations, open to further discussion upon the presentation of the wireframes.
Monthly View – although rarely discussed in our meetings, the monthly view became an idea linking from the transcription only page. Clicking on “place in diary” would bring you to a monthly view. Following on from this a user could find Woodman’s previous experiences or specific letters. Yet again, it shows an addition to the general user experience of the diary, the most important idea when dealing with a public project.
As seen above I added a check box to the side of the text view. No annotations/annotations, acts as a switch, words such as Dunkirk could be highlighted or underlined. This ensures that a user feels like they have a choice within a website, freedom to take their own path. Importantly, we, as a team, would prefer that path to remain on our website. One of the ways in which we agreed upon this insular user experience was adding additional media material. Presented in many different forms, such as video, pictures and articles, media material heightens the experience and ensures more wireframe work.
In conclusion, my experience with site wireframes in this project has allowed me to develop further skills. Although I have worked on user interaction ideas before in the process of making applications, this more in-depth look at design has proved very useful. The meeting which involved all of our wireframes was a great point of discussion. The debates which ensued prove how particular the design of a website can become. Ideas from each wireframe were placed together to make a universal design for the website. As my thesis is based around the creation of an application, which will greatly involve design and user interactions, the skills I have learned in the study of Digital Scholarly Editions will prove considerably useful.