Advanced Web Apps, final project

I had been dreading this project because I still have so much to learn in PHP and Javascript, not to mention the other many topics we’ve touched on at warp speed. A lot of the time, it actually does feel like I’m sitting still in a protective bubble as code is being hurled in my general direction. Since I’m shielded, none of the knowledge gets in.

Counter to Thomas’ instruction, I attempted many different things: first trying out several different Mashape APIs without success before attempting to fiddle around in Aframe VR (since we had a still-forthcoming homework assignment using this framework), also without much success. For the discarded APIs, in the end, I wasn’t really sure what the APIs did; there wasn’t much documentation to be had (or maybe I didn’t know where to look), and they seemed harder to execute than the Yodaspeak example we did in class. When I did get a server response, it was an error. I think it was a 503 error (Service unavailable); even after looking this up, I still had no idea how to fix it, or if it was even a problem with my work or with the API itself.

So, into the Aframe VR experience I went. Looking through the work we did in class, there wasn’t a whole lot of code to be written, and it seemed fairly user-friendly. There was a good amount of documentation, though most of it not current with version 0.4.0. I tried several tutorials, following them line-for-line while substituting my own images. Only about 50% of the time did all of the assets I brought in to index file appear. I did successfully bring in a few equirectangular images to create 3d images, but couldn’t achieve anything beyond that. And since bringing in the image is literally just one line of code, I couldn’t feel too happy with that. I’ll have to go back to that next week.

And so, back to the APIs I went. I found yet another API to try out (a grammar app) and after much tinkering, I did manage to get a response that wasn’t an error. It wasn’t the response I was expecting to get, so I asked my husband to help. He helped me to get over the hump so that I was able to get it working. I prettified it in class today, and added a very modest CSS animation. View my app here.

In order to improve this app:

  • Must-have: currently the user will get the same response whether there is no text entered for grammar checking or if there are no grammatical errors. This is an obvious flaw and some more specific conditions should be put in rectify this.
  • Nice to have: sometimes the app doesn’t provide a useful response; it often just says “there may be a problem”. With such a vague response, it would at least be helpful if the app could indicate which words it suspects as being incorrect.
  • Nice to have: a better loading animation. I had envisioned something else but it is beyond my skill level.
  • Version 2: what would solve many of these issues is if the API were a little better and gave the same amount of detail for each suspected grammatical error.

Learning: Photography

This week, I started 2 courses in photography.

On Saturdays, I’m taking “Power of Light” at George Brown College. This is a 7-week course focused on shooting techniques with available light. We’ve already received our first assignment: to shoot 5 images with reflections being the main subject of the image, and another 5 images with the focus being the interplay of shadow and light.

On Monday nights, I’m taking “Photographic Lighting 1” at Humber College. This is 12-week course where I will be learning about artifical lighting: shooting with flash, off-camera flash, and studio lighting. I’m expecting this to be a challenging class which will stretch my brain a lot. I must admit that the photography studio is fantastic, compared with what George Brown has to offer. It looks like every student will get their own studio light to work with and space to set up our own little sets, as opposed to George Brown where all students had 4 or 5 lights to share and only 2 set ups going at once. Of course, George Brown does not have a full-time photography program, so I guess I can understand the lack of investment in space and equipment, but they do offer a lot of continuing education classes on the subject so I’m not sure that they really have enough resources in this area.

What is good design? Glad you asked…

As luck would have it, I attended a screening of “Design Disruptors” last night; it is a fantastic documentary (produced by Invision) about how some of the most innovative companies in world have used design to improve their products and gain a competitive edge in business. Rather than accept that pain points are an inevitable part of life, these companies focused on creating new products to address them. They saw opportunities to improve or simplify the lives of their users, and worked tirelessly in this pursuit. They brought design to the forefront to ensure that their users had a pleasant experience at every point of interaction.

Some of my main takeaways from this film:

  • identify who the end user really is (and acknowledge that it might not be you)
  • brainstorming sessions appear to be collaborative but can lead to group think and stifle abstract problem-solving
  • design is iterative and needs to evolve along with end user’s needs
  • conducting user testing at the prototyping stage allows you to address unforeseen flaws before official product release
  • unlike releasing printed products, you can immediately measure the success of digital products releases through analytics, social media
  • the experience is the most important thing and may require the sacrifice of visual design elements
  • design humanizes technology
  • truly great design is still really hard to attain

This quote from John Maeda will stay with me for a long time:

Design is about making solutions. Art is about making questions.