Week 6 REFLECTION ON MY CRJ – 03.03.20
Last week Steph and I discussed my CRJ , something we have done many times since the start of the module, and this week in Stephs’ intro to the week , (although I wasn’t able to attend, I have watched the recording), the talk moved over to the CRJ again, so I wanted to address the changes I have made to my CRJ this module, in a dedicated post here.
At the start of this module I had been running my CRJ as a series of Pages. This was simply because it was the way I had always ran my website. Steph commented that it was totally unusable to run it like that as the way the course is structured I needed to be able to tag my posts with multiple tags to be able to show how different aspects of my work and though processes linked together. Also pages and posts were different entities to be used in different ways, and the ways I was using them just wasn’t productive, and led to my website being quite slow and clunky, and not user friendly.
At the time, this made sense, but I couldn’t see the big issue with running it as I was. I was keeping the posts in a series of weeks so that I could find everything easily (I thought it was easily at the time) and I had received a distinction for my CRJ last module, so I couldn’t see the issue.
I have this big thing where I can’t ignore if someone says something needs to be done a certain way, no matter how hard I find it ! So I , after years of running my website like this, decided to knuckle down and work out how to do it.
First of all I had to work out how to use categories, then how to get posts to show in one specific part of my menu. Things that may be quite simple when you are starting a website from scratch, but when you have a whole website already is quite hard.
To enable me to be able to have an individual page with just the categories from the MA it meant I had to delete all my old categories that I use on my website for my business, so things like birth photography, newborn photography, family photoshoot , personal projects etc etc . By doing this it meant that I could just have the modules of the MA as categories. This isn’t great for the business side of my website, however, once I understood are clearly how to use categories I now understand how I will be able to better use them after the MA when I can utilise them properly for work. I was using 40/50 different categories, really using them as tags, and it meant that my website couldn’t be searched by clients effectively. I will be able to take what I have learnt from the MA and implement it across the whole of my website, but for now, I am going to keep it simple by just having the MA work categorised, everything else, left categorised as ‘non MA- work’ and will hold it there until after the MA, and will then recategorise it.
After this the next thing to sort was tags. This is something I have struggled with, as the balance between too many and too little is hard to get just right. At the moment my tags list stands at , Artist references (when talking about artists that I have researched, or that have inspired or informed my work) , contextual research (for everything that I am doing for research to inform my project, so alternative schools and practices, pedagogical reading, artists, exhibitions etc ) , coursework (the weekly tasks set on canvas), Crewdson (the artist as I had planned originally to ref him a lot,I may d delete this now though as it is not as necessary), critical authors (writers such as Shore, Barthes, Sontag, that are informing my work from a critical writing on photography perspective), critical review (Critical reviews of my own and others works), exhibition review (this goes hand in hand with critical reviews really, but is specifically for exhibitions), FMP planning (for when I have thoughts directly related to my fmp regarding final methods of dissemination for example) , informing contexts (I am tagging everything with this), project development (everything to do with my WIP), reflection (thoughts on my work, or things I have read), thoughts on the MA (this is as much for peers in future cohorts as it is for me, I think it’s good to see how people were finding specific parts of the course, things that were hard, things that helped etc etc), and finally one for the weekly webinar/1-2-1′s (to keep all my feedback in one place).
Now I have been running the CRJ like this for a while I can see how this is a MUCH better way of running the website.Not only of running the website, but of organising my thoughts for the MA, and being able to look back on things that I have done so that I can use it in my FMP as well.
Two things I have done that were not suggested to me. On my titles I have kept the week 1/ week 2 etc , this is entirely for my own self, this helps me be able to find things in my own way, look back and reflect, and have easy access to things. I figure the tutors can just ignore this as it doesn’t impact them at all, but it is VERY useful for me for when it comes to looking for certain aspects.
The other thing I want to talk about is the thumbnails that my blog works on. Most CRJ’s have either one continuous stream of writing (with titles and dates obviously) or a chronological list of titles that you then click on and the blog post appears either below or in a new window. When I originally created my website 10 years ago the prophet skin and theme I bought to customise the website had thumbnail pictures instead of titles. It is one of the main reasons I chose the theme. I know Steph expressed concern about it at the start, however this has for me become one of my most used assets of my CRJ. I know just by looking at an image if I had talked about Crewdson because the image is of his work, I know if I had a 1-2-1 with Sarah or Steph, because I made a thumbnail stating exactly that, I know if I have been to an exhibition, or discussed an pertinent book, artist or theme, because it is in the thumbnail, I can also see instantly all of my blog posts about my own work. This works amazingly for me as a user and consumer of my own blog, as I am a visual person obviously, tutors can use titles, categories and tags as it suits them most of all, where as I can use categories and these thumbnails.
All that said, Steph did comment today that she marks in a very holistic way, and if she sees an image in my WIP , she will want to know what I have to say about it contextually, and critically, and how that image was informed. For other CRJ’s she will have to search, for mine I will have a thumbnail depicting each image included in my WIP with a written review and concise critical information for that image contained within that post. This will make it much easier to see where everything is and how it all relates and fits together when it comes to marking, making it very ‘user friendly’ with ‘good navigation’. It also enabled me to do things like with this posts thumbnail, I inverted the image to mean the title was more visible (than if it had been on the white background of my website ).
Other things I have done to make the website easier to navigate is , change the font to a much bigger size, make the front black and bold for easier reading, made all hyperlinks, and references red so that they stand out easily, made the ‘NEWER POSTS’ and ‘OLDER POSTS’ larger than the main body font, and underlined it so it was easier to see (as it was quite hard before) , made the tag cloud bigger, and placed the tag cloud above the categories lists, and included the date on the tile of each post. I also, in my main menu (which doesn’t effect the ma but ….) made my font darker, and the drop down background much larger and black so the menus were easier to navigate as well. I am acutely aware that functionality wise this is much better, but there will be a middle ground when it reverts back to a totally commercial website, as I don’t think they need to be quite so in your face, and will be aesthetically slightly better if they are muted a little more, and more in keeping with my brand colours as well.
This has all been a really steep learning curve, but one that I have no doubt has made my website for the MA much more user friendly for now, and I have no doubt will make it much more so for my clients in the future as well.
There is only one part of my CRJ that I am still not happy with, and that is that I can only fit 35 thumbnails per page, there is no way to include more , this is a shame as it means you have to click ‘newer posts’ or ‘older posts’ at the bottom, and I know Steph didn’t want that. However, there was nothing I could do about this barring write a LOT less, which would of been a silly thing to do. I think the good thing about this is realising that you can’t always make everything perfect, but you can make it as close as possible, useable for yourself and your target audience as much as possible, and then take mental notes for when you pay to have your website remade in the future !