Critical Evaluation and Reflection

In this blog post I will critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of MEDIA LINK and critically reflect upon the decisions I have made throughout the year.

The majority of my intentions for MEDIA LINK have been fulfilled, however not surprisingly, there have been some changes and sacrifices I have had to make along the way. Firstly, I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to make my website mobile friendly. I experienced several issues in terms of CSS with the desktop platform that I wasn’t able to create another adaptive CSS file for smaller screen sizes. This wasn’t a necessity of my project, however I feel that it would have strengthened the project’s commercialism purely because a large amount of internet use is now carried out on a mobile device. Having said this, the purpose of my site is for freelancers to gain connections and showcase their work. Typically, the uploading of files such as PDF’s or GIF’s is carried out on a laptop or computer, consequently the mobile friendly aspect to the website is not a crucial element, instead, is a future development.

Another feature I wasn’t able to implement was the Live Chat feature. This was incredibly complex and essentially was an important part of my website with regard to making connections. The Live Chat functionality required AJAX to enable ‘live’ messaging. Last year, I had attempted using AJAX to create a live feed but experienced several problems which caused it to be unreliable. I was keen for this instant connection to be a part of my website, however to create an external window connecting two users together via the live chat and whats more- saving all the messages between a user, was too advanced for me. In an attempt to ensure a user is able to connect or contact another user they can display their email on their profile, as well as their personal website.

In hindsight, another weakness was that I should have perhaps pursued using the Foundation framework. I started using Foundation at the start of the project because I was told that it would assist with various aesthetics such as pop up boxes/modals and automatically enabled responsive design. This was correct, but I hadn’t anticipated the knowledge required when adding additional code. Several parts of the Foundation CSS styling overrode my own styling which became extremely frustrating when trying to adapt any visual elements. Some of my fellow students used frameworks  and it presents a more modern design and I feel that I should of taken more time to get to grips with the grid system as this would of helped improve some parts of the design of my website.

Despite these weaknesses I can confidently state that MEDIA LINK has several strengths. I am pleased with the random nature of the website. Initially, I was apprehensive as to whether users would find this method of discovery frustrating, however I have received positive feedback from user testing which is a strong indicator that the feature is useful to those wishing to gain inspiration and expand their connections across the media sector as a whole.

I feel that the concept behind MEDIA LINK is an interesting and original one. Because the Media industry is experiencing a gradual convergence, (in devices, apps, and websites) MEDIA LINK provides fantastic platform for freelancers to crossover their connections into other areas of media expertise, as well as searching for inspiration and gain connections in their own media profession.

The supporting marketing campaign for MEDIA LINK further strengthens the concept of my site. The idea being that on the launch of the website I will distribute MEDIA LINK business cards that feature a QR code that a media freelancer will scan, navigating them to the sites sign up page, following this they can discover a media freelancer at random. The QR code is suitable for the random discovery because the individual is unaware of the link they will be presented with. Another great advantage to these cards is that are an enticing way to help increase the number of users of my website. The site is solely ‘user-driven’ therefore this was crucial and the QR cards have been a creative method of promotion to potentially achieve a substantial number of users.

With regard to the evaluations of my own decisions throughout the project, the most sensible decision I made was to remove the GPS feature of the site. The advice came from both my tutors who expressed their confusion of the purpose of MEDIA LINK. When presented with the homepage, both tutors explained that the site looked extremely similar to that of Google Maps. Of course, I had embedded Google Maps to the site, but this was to only act as a supporting visual to show the different media freelancers around the world. They reminded me that this wasn’t the original purpose of my site- the intention was for a user to showcase their work and gain connections. Without realizing, I had strayed completely from my primary focus, which potentially could have been detrimental to my project! By removing the map and all its functionality, it totally minimized any confusion with regard to the sites main purpose.

Over the course of the semester the overall look and feel of Media Link changed several times.

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The screenshots above are the three total redesigns I made. On reflection, the first design, although it was exciting and creative using a bright colour palette, it lacked in professionalism. The second design felt very corporate and had lost the creative/media theme. During feedback I was told that the background image of the light drew the attention away from the map graphic. My third and final design features a high res image of a horizon. I wanted to keep the design simple with the focal point on the copy of the website and the minimalistic look gives a contemporary modern feel.

Another practical decision I made was to disregard the pop up boxes I had created. Originally, the pop up boxes were appropriate because the content displayed behind was the map graphic which featured tags of the geographic locations of users. Since I had removed the map element the pop ups were no longer necessary- consequently I adapted each pop up to a simple container.

Finally, in a more general sense, my overall planning and organization of my project has been extremely accurate and I have therefore managed to keep to the schedule of my Gantt Chart. I have found several parts of my project extremely difficult, especially PHP and CSS elements. What I have found most difficult has been performing the role of both the programmer and the designer. The two roles are conflicting, consequently, on multiple occasions I have had to sacrifice one for the other. Despite the issues I have faced throughout the project, I am extremely glad that I selected a project which involved coding. I have challenged myself and feel that, slowly but surely, my coding knowledge is falling into place! Undertaking this project has confirmed to me that I wish to enter the developer/programmer industry and [hopefully] the launch of MEDIA LINK will be the ‘masterpiece’ of my portfolio!

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