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anonnymoose's Digital Identity

Overall, I am happy with the way the site looks. It may not be clean or professional, like the site of a graphic designer, but I think it shows that I have at least a decent grasp on the elements of graphic design. More specifically, the site is simple but easy to navigate. I make it explicitly clear in the header that this is a site of academic works, so that the reader should expect a heavy emphasis on text over images. I feel like this may be a major fault on my part, but most of my academic work has been writing papers, and I have no idea how to make that interesting or appealing. The internet seems to be the place where people don't want to take the time to read something thoroughly if there is nothing visually interesting to capture their attention. In spite of that, I think my site is successful in being straightforward. All of the content is available within a page click or two, and I try to allow each section to carry its own weight. For example, though this was once the site of my blog, I was able to move it to its own section on the site, allowing the reader to access it voluntarily.
I imagine the reader of my site to be someone who is interested in the skills I have acquired during my academic career (since that is the experience I am limited to at the moment). I plan on applying to graduate school some day, so I saw this more as a portfolio on the way I think rather than as a digital resume. I believe that changes could be made easily to the site at a later date to add more professional experience, but for now I think this site will suffice. I like things to be easy to find, so I tried to organize the site to allow navigation to be as easy as possible. I hope this will convey to my audience that I know how to think clearly and in an organized manner. I didn't want to bombard the reader with tons of information at the start, so I made the welcome page simple and directed the reader to explore the other pages on their own. In that sense, there is structure in the way the pages are organized, but the reader is free to start reading wherever they like. I think freedom in exploration is important, hence the "Atlas" in the site title.
If I were an employer, I think I would feel intrigued, but not compelled to hire the author of the site outright. It would definitely depend on the potential employer, though. I think if they were looking for a person with a solid research background, decent communication skills, and experience in GIS, they would contact me. But if they were looking for someone with professional experience in something totally unrelated to academic research, they would move on pretty quickly. Some employers might respect the simplicity of the site design, but I can imagine others being bored with it. So I'm torn. I feel like if a potential employer was already familiar with me, this would serve as a supplement to a resume, but otherwise it may seem too basic. In spite of this, I believe that this site reflects my digital academic identity well. It has the potential to grow, expand, and change, but for now I think this is a good starting place.

Homepage Screenshot: 
Design Process: 

Since I wasn't really sure how to design my own Wordpress theme from scratch, I decided to modify an existing theme available on UMW Blogs. I think there may have been more adaptable themes, but I chose to modify the economics theme, since it seemed easy enough to figure out.
I made several major changes and a few smaller ones that were more clean-up than anything else.

1. The first major change I made was to incorporate a paper background instead of the default white image. Since my website is entitled "Sarah's Atlas" I thought the paper would add a nice touch to the theme overall. Plus the neutral color scheme was a good template to work off of.

2. I widened the page size from 750 px to 900 px, because I like the look of a centered but wide format. I probably could have made the site stretch all the way across the page, but I like the centered look since it reads more like a text. It also made it easier to tweak the layout of the other elements.

3. I replaced the header image with one I made myself in GIMP using an image from Flickr licensed for reuse under Creative Commons. I think it adds a personalized touch to the site and fits the overall color scheme I chose to use.

4. Speaking of which, I changed the dominant color scheme from red, black and white to brown, orange and blue. While the colors are demure, I think it speaks to the atlas/old book theme I was going for in the overall design. I had a hard time implementing this in the body, but I like the overall aesthetic anyway.

5. I changed the heading fonts to Book Antiqua and the body fonts to Arial/Helvetica. I liked the Book Antiqua better than the sans serif font I replaced it with, but I knew better than to use a serif font in the text body. I think the fonts complement each other, so I think it was a good decision.

6. I replaced the menu bar image with one I created based on the new color scheme. I like the effect of the gradient, so I wanted to see if I could apply it to my site. I used the gradient again in the title bar at the very top and in the last part of the footer, which I think provided balance and consistency to the site.

7. I used some CSS code that Stu Nichols makes available free on his site to construct a drop-down menu. It works perfectly in Firefox and somewhat well in Chrome, but not at all in Internet Explorer. I like drop-down menus because it allows you to add more pages without taking up space on the navigation bar, so I was proud of myself for figuring out how to get it working somewhat decently. It could be better, but I don't want to risk messing with it.

8. I changed the float properties of the content and sidebar so that they switched places. It's a personal preference of mine to have the sidebar on the right, but I think the design could have worked just as well without it.

9. I wanted to tie in the color scheme in the footer, so I recolored a clip art flourish design and set it as the footer background. I liked the look of it so much I also made a smaller version and added it to the sidebar items as the bottom backgrounds.

10. The rest of the changes were minor tweaks, like the addition of borders around the block elements, the text transformation of the titles from lowercaps to capitalized, and playing around with the padding and margins to get the right aesthetic balance.

I was a little surprised at how much extra CSS I had to write to make some of these changes. Sometimes changing just the color of a word meant working backwards to make sure I was able to counteract the inherited properties. It was a little frustrating. but overall I think it looks nice.

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