Thursday, 22 October 2009

Self Marking for the Self Managed Learning Plan


For the Pass Criteria:

1 and 2. Investigate applications and learn the fundamentals of PHP and MySQL.
My sketchbook shows my exploration and investigation of the use of PHP and MySQL. The notes show research of the fundamentals of PHP script and the way it communicates with the MySqL RDBMS.

The sketchbook also includes annotated printouts of PHP script, screenshots and email correspondence to show my investigative efforts and the development of my website, along with a database table.

3. Create a Website which uses PHP and MySQL. (Creative Brief)
As shown in the sketchbook, I used a range of books, websites and online forums to gather information on the subject, and to write my evaluation.

Following a guide in the book PHP6 and MySQL5 by Larry Ullman I downloaded and set up XAMPP on my laptop to provide a local server in order to use as a test bed for building the website.

I followed textbooks, notably PHP Solutions by David Powers and PHP6 and MySQL5 by Larry Ullman adapting the examples to create the solution to the creative brief.

4. Evaluation.
I wrote a 1000 word (approx) evaluation of the SMLP, justifying the application of PHP and MySQL and my experience of answering the creative brief. After finalizing the website I reviewed it and highlighted the improvements that could be made.

For the Merit Criteria.
M1. The sketchbook includes notes and annotation of various sources, showing an understanding of the particular theoretical principles that are relevant to this assignment. Going beyond the gathering of information, however, the emails show an ability to synthesize information from a range of sources in order to overcome a problem that arose from initially relying on one source.

M2. The sketchbook shows the development of the assignment over time. The preliminary stage involved gathering information from a range of sources (books, online tutorials, online forums, and email correspondence). Drawing from the gathered information, I built the first element of the website, an include file. This required adapting PHP script and customizing it to suit my own requirements.

Problems encountered along the way are recorded in the sketchbook. The ability to overcome each problem allowed me to build the next element, leading to the eventual completion of the website.

M3. When devising the Creative Brief, I chose features which would require a number of variables to be used in combination. Specifically, I wanted the website to include a gallery, a feedback form and PHP includes to add further features.

These elements required a range of technical skills for example, in addition to using CSS for the layout, I wanted to create an online gallery which requires communication with a MySQL database. This retrieved information is specifically linked to each image as it is selected whilst the PHP script links a thumbnail image to a larger image. To do this, I had to adapt a PHP script from another source for my own purposes.

I also adapted an include file which highlights the current page; this required customizing a navigation script to suit the style of my website. Another include file is one I used on the footer element of my website, which will calculate the current year from the year the page was copyrighted.

The result of these creative and technical endeavors is a website of a near-professional standard.

In conclusion, this work satisfies the merit criteria.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Web Designer Role

Link to online job advert

The job I have seen advertised is for a front end web designer/developer based in Leeds. Though it is listed as an advert for a ‘Web Designer’, the description includes everything from design and development to maintaining and updating existing websites, as well as communicating with clients in order to understand their web requirements and to explain technical issues in a way that they can understand.

In terms of specific technical skills, the job requires knowledge of and experience with the following: CSS, (X)HTML, JavaScript, Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver. I have made a good start on mastering these skills, but am aware that I need a lot more hands on practice to gain confidence and professional working knowledge of these elements. I plan to develop my ability in these technical skills and to show how I can use them effectively in this current assignment and future projects.

I’ve noticed that this advert specifically states that all websites from this organisation are required to abide by W3C standards. This makes me appreciate the process of showing validation on the website work we are doing on this course as this is a web design standard expected in industry.

There are a few skills listed in this job advert that I do not yet have. One core skill requirement is Flash. I hope to have a chance to learn Flash, if not on this course then on my own or on an evening course. Not only does there seem to be a demand for it, but it also looks interesting to me.

The job also requires an understanding of online marketing tools such as SEO and PPC. While I have not yet had experience with these, I hope there will be a chance to learn about these types of tools. Additionally, although it’s not mentioned in this particular job advert, I’ve seen ads requiring Content Managing Systems (CMS) such WordPress and so look forward to learning this as well.

Finally, this job mentions Fireworks and Quark as desirable, though not strictly necessary. Obviously, the more technical knowledge I have, the better equipped I will be to find employment.

One current concern of mine is whether I should purchase a Mac. This job specifies both Mac and PC familiarity. To date I have always used PCs. I have noticed that many job adverts seem to require both. If not having a Mac means that I won’t be able to get a job, then I might need to consider it as an investment and overcome the cost issue.

The job also specifies other less technical skills that may not be as easy to demonstrate. According to the advert, this position would involve interaction with clients which would require both listening to understand their website requirements and the ability to explain technical issues, both verbally and in writing. While I have had to rely on my communication skills working with others on this course, I am also hoping to draw on my experience in other jobs to date for these less technical skills.