Design Q&A

Today in Praxis: more design. The design team had agreed that we would all bring in some wireframe sketches to chat about collectively and try to agree on a few wireframes to talk about at the group meeting today. We spent some time working on sketches two weeks ago and raised quite a few questions that were readdressed when we met today. For instance, do we want Prism users to be able to access visualizations of texts if they haven’t already marked up that text? In other words, can someone who’s coming to Prism for the first time be able to look at the already-highlighted version of a text (including the one they’re working on)? We were divided on this. Some of us (myself included) were concerned that allowing users to visualize a text that is “open” for markup could influence the way they highlight. Doing so would downplay the interest we have in an individual’s response to the constrained highlighter parameters. Thinking of a classroom scenario: If a student is asked to mark up The Waste Land for Modernism, noise, and water, wouldn’t being able to see her classmates’ highlights affect/tempt her own interpretation? And how much does that matter?

We also answered some questions today, I think. Two weeks ago, we were going back and forth on how the home page should look, what should be included on it and how to format that information so that it maintains a clear narrative for how to use Prism. We looked at some other sites for inspiration, and what we liked about For Better for Verse was that the home page puts you directly into the exercise and offers neat little tabs to help you navigate the site.  We wondered if Prism’s home page should be a sandbox, where the user is immediately asked to try Prism out for herself (without saving highlights), but we also want Prism’s homepage to offer some instruction, because using it is a bit more complicated than using For Better for Verse. We also were concerned  that the tabs wouldn’t provide a distinct hierarchy or clear set of instructions for the user. Ed and I were trying to figure out how to clearly offer an instructive narrative on the home page, and we turned to GitHub for inspiration since its home page features four distinct steps (complete with strangely adorable Octocat taking the user through each step). Over the break, Ed did a fantastic job of merging the For Better for Verse tabs with GitHub’s narration-through-icons. Jeremy also drew up a wireframe of the home page that prioritizes instructions and a how-to video while also including prominent links to the sandbox and to the actual text mark-up page (since that’s what it’s all about, after all). In today’s meeting, we’ll collectively talk wireframes, so be on the lookout for more questions and questions answered.

Brooke is a 2011-12 Praxis Fellow and MA candidate in the Department of English. She is currently working on a thesis which investigates Virginia Woolf's moment of being as a biographical, historical, and narrative phenomenon in Woolf's fiction and essays. Brooke is also a graduate research assistant in IATH, working on Alison Booth's Collective Biographies…


  1. Hello, I was wondering if there was some sort of online community or discussion forum where users of the For Better for Verse application could interact and seek assistance.


    • Hi Omar,

      Right now there isn’t a community (that I’m aware of)…you might contact Chip Tucker (he’s listed on the bottom of the For Better for Verse page) to inquire about this.