In 2011 I entered my introductory course into professional writing and rhetoric, a class required for my major. In this class we taught rhetorical strategies to be practiced on several case studies. Towards the end of the semester, Dr. Moore assigned us to groups and particular clients in for a web-based practical. My group’s client was Carolinas Writing Program Administrators (CWPA), with Dr. Jessie Moore as our link. The CWPA was looking to recreate their current website to create more interactivity between members. The CWPA connects teachers and administrators that work in writing programs at universities within North Carolina and South Carolina. Due to the large area the CWPA encompasses, group members only schedule to meet twice a year and many members are unable to go to either dates. In editing their website, the CWPA wanted easy accessibility between members in regards to exchanging news related to the writing programs (such as what methods worked with students and what jobs were opening in their universities). Recreating the website in this way acted as part of their goal to create and maintain a community of writing program administrators in the Carolina area.
As is often the case in service learning classes, our group started working for CWPA with no knowledge of the organization and limited ability in computer programming. We created a website analysis and a website recommendation report based on our research of the CWPA’s current site, exploring the navigational pros of Elon University’s website, and conducting a survey for CWPA members that questioned their needs and expectations of CWPA’s website. Understanding the desires of the audience for CWPA’s website was difficult during this project because of the distant connection between ourselves and the audience; outside of the single survey we had no interaction with the audience and were not part of the CWPA, which was a new experience at this time.
We analyzed the website as being a very system-centered project, thus our main objective in writing our recommendation report was to create a user-centered document that allows for CWPA members to affect one another through the website. We created mockup pieces through a Wordpress and used Elon University’s website to test our ideas. We compared the process through the current website and our mockup to persuade our client that the changes made for a more navigable process. We conducted several meetings with Dr. Moore in the process as a way to keep our project manageable for the client and ourselves.
Although working with CWPA was not the first time I have had to work in a group or on a group paper, it was still a challenge to keep communication going between the five of us, and the more involved with the project we became the more information I wish we had had time to take into consideration, specifically how to encourage users to participate in the website. Although we received feedback from members of the CWPA, I feel that given more time to edit our original survey and repost, we would have received more specific changes desired by the members. My group received good marks in the project and some of the changes we suggested in the report are now available on the CWPA site.