Writing for the WWW

scary black spider

Dear Readers,

Hello. Okay, I know you may be wondering, where have I been? It has been three weeks since my last (and first) post. I am ideally supposed to be blogging more frequently about my fellowship experience. What has been holding me back? I’m dedicating this post to reflecting on that question.

Sure, part of it is balancing other work projects and milestones. That will always be there. But there’s also something more.

I mean, it is not like I haven’t over the past weeks written two different blog posts, both still saved in my drafts, neither published. When I think why, it’s that I just didn’t feel ready to publish them, and it’s this unease in unreadiness that gets to me. It is intimidating to me to have my words out there, on the WORLD WIDE WEB, forever and ever, where anyone can see them or read them, forever, especially when I have not been able to carefully craft them. It gives me what I’m calling

public writing paralysis.

What the life of words can be on the web is daunting to me. We have all seen our fair share of public figures being called out for something they said a long time ago (and I know this can serve as a social good too. And I know I’m not a public figure. But still.) I’m afraid of the possibility of being defined by what I write now as a 23-year-old in one of my first jobs out of college.

I recognize that this fear is a problem in itself.

Online writing is an act of courage. It involves the intellectually rigorous practice of organizing your thoughts. Writing in general can bring clarity and understanding, and doing it publicly and openly takes risk. You don’t necessarily know the life of your post or who will read it.  There can be a lot of unknown.

But there is also a lot of known. It is not really as much of a big scary world wide web as I like to think of it in my head. 99.99% of the time my educated guess will suffice. I know that my posts go on the Digital Learning team site, where maybe my team, some supportive people in my life, and the occasional site visitor whose attention has been peaked will read skim? them. (online skimming— thoughts on this another day).

I also know that there is room to mold and grow as a person on the web. Even though I don’t feel like there is room for this (hence all my fears of being defined by what I write), I know somewhere deeper down inside of me that of course there is. And if the options “Edit. Delete. New post.” aren’t enough for me, other options can be explored.

Ultimately, I like what writing on the WWW affords. Even if it scares me and I struggle with it. The open ambience of come one, come all. Stay or don’t. Leave or comment or don’t. Your choice. Here I am world and here are my thoughts. Also the potential for sharing stories across physical barriers appeals to me. It can open a lot of doors and has. I met a trans person once and I remember him telling me how much Google searches helped him discover himself and other people like him. I have also found so much help online. When I’ve been alone, or confused, or unable to understand things about the world, I’ve turned to the web. I have found help, support, community, guidance, and people— a web of answers and networks. People.

In light of all of this, I guess writing for the web isn’t such a scary thing after all,

…or is it?

Bitmoji at student desk with paper, pencil, worried look, hand raised.
Bitmoji of the Week: Basically me, with a million questions, concerns, and existential crises unfolding as I begin blogging again for the world. wide. web.

 

Until next time (you know if I ever move past my public writing probz),

Ya girl Fern

Ikra Javed ’18

P.S.~ You know, as it has taken me many hours to simply write this post—as I revised. and cut. and added. and I derailed. and rerailed. and I derailed again. and now am just going to post with how it is— it has occurred to me that I may be overlooking one slight bug that may also be a large part of my problem: scattered thoughts and the tension that poses for clear, clean, good writing.

 

 

 

My Digital Début (gone wrong)

Dear Readers,

Hey there! My name’s Ikra and I’m the current Digital Learning Fellow @ Davidson College for the year. I’m on the road to becoming a freelance web designer (that’s the dream), and this fellowship is akin to my first big step in that direction. For the year, I’m around helping our team (we sit in the Research & Design Studio in the library behind Fishbowl), and I’ll also be sharing my thoughts and insights, discoveries and reflections, and other bizarre or noteworthy occurrences here along the way. 

Even though my name’s Ikra, I like to go by Fern in my blog posts. In addition to me, there are three other people who help bring the better out in me. They are my teammates, 

Sundi, whom I endearingly call my boss,

Daniel, who’s kind of like my teacher/coach,

and Thomas, who’s also relatively new like me.

The four of us together make up the Digital Learning Team, and people always ask us what we do and where the walls are in our office. One of the things we do as a team are work sessions, weekly for an hour together, on our Digital Identity. On my own digital identity, I have been super slow on launching my top-level domain, even though I purchased it two years ago after graduation when we had the option.

So, I finally launched my top-level domain in one of our work sessions. I even tried to put a theme on it that I’ve adored & hoarded on my computer for years. However, it seemed the web had other plans in store for me. As soon as I uploaded the theme and tried to activate it, the whole site crashed and I immediately got this message:

 

This site is experiencing technical difficulties.

To make things even better, the message didn’t go away. Nope, not even after several hours. I actually had to uninstall WordPress on the domain and reinstall it. And honestly, I can’t say I was surprised. This is like

story. of. my. life.

Of course this would happen to me during my digital début. It was only befitting that my digital identity reflect, well, me— basically that line perennially in a nutshell.

“This site is experiencing technical difficulties.”

Although…

The site is experiencing technical, philosophical, existential, spiritual, emotional, ... difficulties.

 

probably captures it best 🙂 .

Until next time,

Ikra

or more bloggishly, ya girl Fern

 

Technical Note: Sundi and I never quite figured out why exactly that happened. My best guess was that I tried to upload a super old version of the theme and that crashed it because it was too old and incompatible with the new WP or had a lot of bugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m back!

******crickets chirp*******

******2019 summer comes and goes, no sight of Ikra******

*****Ikra gets Digital Learning Fellowship, or better DL Fellow lands on Ikra?*****

***She is to begin blogging again****

Dear readers,

…and I’m back!

The time has come for me to resurface and revive this space. RE: Valentine’s Day site: still in progress. I didn’t quite complete it last semester, have an ambitious vision laid out for the whole endeavor now. When it will materialize (or should I say virtualize hehe)– unclear but not unhopeful. But that’s not why I’m writing to you.

I’m writing because…..I’m actually going to be doing a follow up post later today that is the my main “Friday post”…this is the interlude post to string together April (last post) to now (new post)!

Why hello again. I’m now the Digital Learning Fellow for Davidson College. (My professor Sundi from the class is now my boss…cool right?). As part of it, I’ll be blogging weekly about the things I encounter throughout the year. So, I guess that means I’m back for now!

 

bitmoji trapped in green jello
Bitmoji of the Summer Months: basically me in a nutshell. stuck and probably a little lost.

Sincerely,

Once endearingly Fern, now Ikra.

But I think I’ll still sign this one Fern? Something about it still feels right to blogger me.

Ya girl Fern 

 

 

Prototype 4

Dear Readers,

 

Prototype 4 currently under the works can be captured in two pictures as it stands right now. I will add more pictures to this post as more pages show up on my site. This weekend, I went through and did some CSS changes and did a lot more REMOVING of things I had after my post-UX testing feedback than adding.

Site Title Bar with Large Jekyll and Hyde Image
The site title and display image originally. The Jekyll & Hyde image is now going to be changed.

 

Bottom of Home Page with menu bar at bottom
I took out all of the subscription information and basically the long scrolling of various things to click to make the home page more clean. This was based on feedback. The portfolio section is to be filled with six grid boxes (to be done). I have removed the top menu bar as well, and there will only be one at the bottom of the page as opposed to top to had a unique flavor and also ensuring readers scroll past the portfolio section where essentially all of the site content will be arranged. The menu bar tabs are currently filler items to be altered.

 

Sincerely,

Ikra

My Coming of Age Tale

Dear Readers,

Hello, it’s me here. So it’s been quite a week, and I have been bouncing all over the place,and tangentially so has my digital project, but in a great, creative-energy bursting way. This week, for the THIRD time— I changed my WP theme on my site. The first one changed because it was a bit too retro. The second one was a minimalist theme but parts of it crashed when I switched to https, so it seemed best to switch again. That was all before this week; this week, I enacted my new theme, which itself took a while of reconceptualizing the site’s presentation. The content still needs to be put into there and I’m working on making a video now. I hope something of all these dreams gets done this week.

 

On to my more important story I’ve been dying to share with all of you ever since it hit me sometime in the wee hours of the night sometime in the middle of the week: I’m dropping the acts and the masks. I’m Ikra— yep, that’s the girl behind Fern and everything I’ve posted on here. I tried to find every way to run from myself, and I didn’t really realize I was doing that. First, it was the desire to narrate my project from St. Valentine’s voice— that quickly became impossible with my taste for literalism. I’m not a Saint, how could I even pretend without doing a bad job? Then, it was Fern speaking— but making a whole new Twitter account to just say everything I could say on my actual Twitter account to my class + 100s of other followers (many my friends) looking back just sounds ridiculous. If Fern is just Ikra, why not just be Ikra (on Twitter at least where she already existed). Why was I trying to hide my own life from myself and people who knew me so much? I’m still not sure, but my guesses: I doubt so much of what I do, am super conscious about it, and putting myself out there scares me. It’s an act of vulnerability, and well, I guess I just have a hard time being open with people.

I’m not really one to trust

but once place I have been trusting is in this reflection process and it has allowed me to be more open about a lot of what has been going on behind the scenes of my Valentine’s Day investigation. I’ve also seen the fruits of these process blogs, especially when— immediately after I had that lightbulb moment this week of using my actual personal Twitter account I’ve had for years @Ikrathinks— the funny thing was that  the first thing I thought about was how I couldn’t wait to share this in my process reflection blog this weekend. Yes, seriously— I even came up with a name for my process blog then and there…something like “coming of age” through the course (hence, this blog’s name). In the becoming of my project has been the becoming of myself. And this little spot on my domain is the sweet-spot that integrates the what I do with who I am, the place where I get to authentically speak and has become more and more dear to me as time has gone on. “That special little place” we all have somewhere in- or out-side of us has been, for me, this place, these process reflection blogs.

Alright, enough mushy stuff now. TTYL, got a lotta work to do in the finishing up of my website (for whatever finished means).

Bitmoji Cheering "Whoo!"
So me this past week, whoo!

Sincerely,

Ya girl Ikra

The Face Behind Fern 

User Testing– Super Confused

Hello ENG306,

I did some user testing of my site today. I am going to be moving to a new theme again because of a technical error but haven’t implemented that new theme yet, so my site was rather dry. From it, I realized that the appearance of the site was much better than the previous one I had, but my users (my two sisters) were generally confused about what my site was about. I tried to avoid doing most of the explaining, but it turned out that I needed to explain it to them after a while, so they could understand what I was trying to do.

User testing is so incredibly helpful, and I hope to do more of it in the coming weeks. I learned that I need to be very clear and straightforward because having a site on Valentine’s Day is already a bit different and it is isn’t obvious WHAT kind of information I am trying to convey. I got some good feedback of making sure I clearly, explicitly spell out what I’m trying to do in a sentence or two somewhere on the landing page.

I also received feedback on the new idea I’ve been working with on calling my site something like: Valentine’s Day: Jekyl & Hyde, to capture both the authentic sentimentality and value of the holiday but also the darker sides such as its imperialistic spread to other countries and how St. Valentine’s name has been co-opted.

 

I tried thumbs up Bitmoji
Bitmoji of the Week: This says, “I tried” in Spanish. Despite various technical difficulties, this week I have been working away and feeling good about it too. Looking forward to tweeting out my text soon and making more design changes.

 

Until Next Time I’ll be Swimming in the V-Day Love,

Fern

 

Customers as Guests

Old Book Party

 

Invited guests are something unique…they are people who may be strangers but for whom we want to show a really great time because we’re hosting the party.

Joshua Porter

 34/52 Weeks of UX Design

 

In Week 34, Joshua Porter sheds light on how to make the user experience better for our USERS. He highlights the company Amazon and its leader, Jeff Bezos, for how they view their customers.

Porter quotes Jeff Bezos, who once said:

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.

Porter goes on to explain that our users are not just “leads,” “clients,” or other potentially derogatory terms. They aren’t objects we are seeking out, nor are they customers we are trying to ensnare into buying our products. Sure, some of that may have truth to it. More than any of these labels, Porter points out how our users are first and foremost our guests, and we should treat them as such.

He leaves usOld Book Party with a final reflection question: “Are you talking about your customers in a way that distances them, or in a way that brings them closer?”

I found this UX Design principle really helpful because it gets us out of the mindset of trying to “sell” a product to our customers or trap them into coming to our website, and instead views them as invited people for whom we bear the responsibility. Our attitude as designers shifts when we think of any visitors of our site as guests, people we are inviting into our home, as opposed to people who are here for a service or because they need us. The responsibility is shifted from their shoulders onto ours to make sure we “host the party” well, that is, make sure our readers have an informative, enjoyable experience in a way that they may want to come back, or at least may tell others about it. And word of mouth travels fast.

I think all of the design principles we have learned so far feed into creating such a guest atmosphere. Let’s revisit those with the video, End of Semester UX Design Party, before we move forward.

One company I find that has treated its customers as guests particularly well is GiftTree, who I ordered from when I was studying abroad in Peru. I wanted to deliver a gift to my sister, living in Charlotte (USA), for her birthday. They treated me so kindly. I got a discount for signing up. They emailed me letting me know my gift was on the way and when it had arrived. They also send emails that make the users feel very welcome, giving them exclusive access to discounts and coming up with clever, creative, and punny emails. GiftTree Email

On top of all this, I think the best part is how they have a live chat option and a direct phone number that I can call at any time if I am struggling with anything. It enormously amplifies my user experience, and I truly feel treated like a guest at Gift Tree.

Discretionary Note: This post is not an ad sponsored by Gift Tree, nor have I received any financial contribution from them.

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