I researched some sites that help people find new movies. Here are some of those sites:

What to Rent

I stumbled across a site called whattorent.com that actually seems to have a pretty inventive system for recommending movie titles to you. At first I was a little annoyed that I had to fill out a semi-long survey, but once I did I was pretty impressed with the results. The first title it recommended to me sounds really intriguing and I think I might go rent it (it’s called 8 1/2 if you’re curious). The site is not very flashy, but seems to produce good results. You can keep track of which titles the site recommends to you, which is nice. If I were to do this idea, I would make it more visual, and maybe give the user some more choices on what type of movie they want to learn about. The survey, while slightly tedious, is the brains behind what’s going on. I wonder if I could achieve a similar effect with fewer questions.

Taste Kid

TasteKid.com is a very simple concept that kind of follows in Pandora’s footsteps in a way, by recommending movie titles based on other movies that you like. While it is pretty limited, I haven’t seen a lot of movie sites out there that attempt to do what they are doing. It would be interesting to incorporate a type of recommendation section into my site.

The Filter

I think TheFilter.com has a pretty interesting concept going. If you register, this site will “filter” entertainment content for you, recommending certain movie or music titles based on what genre you’re interested in. I like the look and feel of the site and also that you can save your recommended titles. One gripe I have is that the site takes forever to load, leaving the user waiting.


Flixster.com seems to be on more of the social networking end of movie recommendation sites, with features like profiles, comment walls, and friending. I think this actually makes some sense, especially considering your friends are probably very likely to be able to recommend good movies to you. I was kind of turned off by the fact that you pretty much have to register to use the site. I think when making my site, I’m going to make most features accessible without registering, becasue this seems to be a major roadblock with some users.

Working at the Apple store, I feel like I’m fully conscious of how prevalent the iPhone is, and how much people are using them more and more as a way to surf the web. On a daily basis I see people come into the store who have either lost or broken their phone and feel like they can not go on living. It’s this kind of devotion that makes me realize I need to build a website that is optimized for the iPhone and other mobile devices.

Optimize for the iPhone

I found a great article on the online version of .net magazine that gives some insight on how to optimize your site for the iPhone. The author points out, “In global terms, the iPhone’s browser market-share remains tiny – under half of one per cent – but this figure is rapidly growing.” Unlike many mobile devices before it, the iPhone does a good job at rendering web pages, displaying them pretty much as they would appear on a larger display. But it does start out tiny, forcing the user to zoom in. iphone-pinch

For this reason, the author suggests to keep it simple when designing your site, “a good mobile site really makes you focus on what’s important – clarity, simple layouts, important information, clean design.” Also, since users are interacting with their fingers, make important areas like links easily hittable by large fingers.

Building a mobile app

Also, I’m considering the plausibility of an actual application built for the iPhone.  For this project I want to build a website that helps users find new movies. I actually think this type of concept would work really well on a mobile application. Popular apps on the iPhone like Pandora and Urban Spoon have some similarities to my concept that make me think that this idea could work well.

apps_urbanspoonWith Urban Spoon, users give three pieces of information; what part of town they want to eat in, what kind of food, and the general price range of the food. Users are then presented with a restaurant that matches their criteria. My application would have users choose some criteria; like genre of the movie,  what era the movie is from, etc., that would then give them a result.

I found an article on CrunchGear that discussed how MIT students built mobile applications for a class in 13 weeks. I felt like this was a relevant article for me, considering if I wanted to build an app, it would have to in an accelerated time line.  Most of the students built their apps for Windows Mobile and Android. It was interesting seeing the types of ideas that the students came up with. One I thought was interesting was called Mem2D, which, “aims to solve the problem of archiving information you might see on a flyer that you want to remember for later.” Basically a user would scan a barcode on a poster and that would give them all the pertinent information about the event.


Another article I found had some really in depth information on Mashable about how one iPhone developer built their application, and advice they would give to others building an app. The makers of the app Photokast created a 37 page guide to the development process, which detailed decisions they made and what they learned during the creation of their app. The document contains some really useful information, from how to name your app to making it as simple as possible for users. I would highly recommend reading this article if you’re considering building a mobile app.

Overall, I don’t think I will have time to build an app during this capstone project, but I do plan on looking into what it takes to build such an app.

Articles used:

1. http://www.netmag.co.uk/zine/mobile/optimise-your-site-for-iphones

2. http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/12/12/mit-students-build-mobile-applications-in-13-weeks/

3. http://mashable.com/2009/02/21/how-to-build-an-iphone-app/

As found on Wikipedia, a capstone is literally, “one of the finishing or protective stones that form the top of an exterior masonry wall or building.”  Some common definitions of the term capstone with regard to education are, “the crowning achievement, point, element, or event” and “the final stroke; the culmination or acme.” Also, I think a good definition is, “In-depth exploration of an area of the curriculum. Usually occurs in the final term of study and builds on previous learning.”  These definitions gave me a little bit a clearer idea of what a capstone project should be. My capstone project should pull in skills I have learned from many different areas, and culminate to make a final product that shows off what I can do and solves a unique problem.

I have friends that are studying drastically different subject matters from me, from physical therapy to education, that have done a capstone as a part of their educational studies. These are usually lengthy research projects, writing a document that is perhaps hundreds of pages long. This is obviously very different from what we will be doing as interactive media/ web design students. I wanted to see which schools that offered interactive media degrees, or some related field, that also required a capstone project.

What I could find on this subject was a spattering of schools that required a capstone as a part of the curriculum.

I may have had problems finding examples of capstone projects for interactive media for a few reasons. First, it’s possible I was looking in the wrong places. A university that has an interactive design major may require a final, cumulative project but not call it a “capstone.” Second, college degrees in interactive media still are pretty new, it’s not like it is a staple major at every university. Perhaps colleges haven’t developed the curriculum enough to require a formal capstone project. And third, universities and colleges may be wary of putting student examples online, perhaps to protect their privacy.

daveWhile the following isn’t necessarily a capstone project, I think it is an excellent example of a student’s interactive media project. This is the portfolio site of a student named Dave Werner who graduated from The Portfolio Center in Atlanta. It is nice, because Dave goes through how he came up with his ideas, his process, and the final product for each of his interactive projects. In the logo section for example, if you roll over the logo, you get a written description of what he was trying to achieve and images of alternate logos he considered. Not necessarily a capstone project, but a great example of an interactive media student.

Coming up with an idea for my capstone project is kind of a daunting task. I want to come up with something ingenious, never been done before, thought-provoking, and that is immaculately designed… but am having a little trouble figuring out exactly what that is :/  I am leaning towards a site that helps you make a decision or discover new things, based on some criteria you put in. Here is some research that I’ve done on sites that provide this kind of service.

My Ideal Beach

myidealbeach1As I mentioned in class, I got some inspiration from a site called myidealbeach.com. On this site, users go through a very simple three step process to (as you guessed it) find their ideal beach vacation. The process is very visual. No long survey to fill out or annoying registration page. You just simply choose who is going to be traveling with you, what kind of activities you want to do, and the amenities you want the hotel to have.

Then, the site gives you your ideal choice based on your criteria, and a list of additional choices with details about rates and availability. If you want, you can go in and narrow your search even further, by specifying a region like Mexico or the Caribbean, and by specifying budget criteria.

I think the site is simple, yet brilliant. I like how clean the design is, and that it is playful- it looks like stuff you would find lying on a beach. Also, I like that the results are given to the user in a clear, intuitive way, and that you can easily alter your decision to get different results.

Travelocity Experience Finder

Experience Finder is another great travel site that helps you discover vacation spots by putting in certain criteria. It’s different from My Ideal Beach in an obvious way: it doesn’t confine itself to beach locations. In the first step of the process, the user is presented with either choosing between a type of vacation (theme) or a specific location. Then you can choose to look into hotel accommodations, activities, look at a calendar of events, etc.


The Experience Finder site is built really well, with cool Flash transitions that actually load very fast. It is a lot more robust than the My Ideal Beach site, but almost a little more confusing, I thought. The user is almost presented with too many options, which can be a little overwhelming. But it is awesome that you can get really detailed, by looking at different types of activities and assigning a budget for example.

Urban Spoon

urbanThose of you with iPhones are no doubt familiar with Urban Spoon as an app. This is a great concept that is very easy for people to understand. You set certain criteria, like where in the city you want to eat, what type of food you want, and how much to pay. I like that you can switch it up, and lock certain criteria in place and leave another “unlocked” to see what the different results would be.

I like that the site targeted me as a user, by immediately identfying where I was as a user, with specific Dallas area restaurant content on the homepage. Also, I like that this site works well as both as a normal website and a mobile application. Hopefully, I can make my capstone project one that could work well as a mobile app as well as a site.


Alright, everyone knows what Pandora is by now, but I am still constantly amazed with how well it seems to know me and my musical tastes. I like how little the user needs to do in order to discover new music. There is a minimal amount of registration that you need to do to sign up, and actually, a user could decline to register and still use the site. You just put in an artist’s name or a song title and Pandora takes over from there. Also, I like that you can help Pandora by giving a thumbs up or down on a song, and by adding more stations. There is some pretty insane programming behind Pandora that I may not be able to fully match with my site, but I would to at least have as solid a concept.

We are Hunted

I can’t remember how I ran across the site wearehunted.com, but I think it is brilliant in its simplicity. On this site, users discover new artists and music. huntedIt is not hard to figure out, you just click on one of the images that represent a song and it plays, and you can sort through music by artists, songs, and what has been popular the past week or the past month. I have discovered some cool up and coming artists this way. Again, I like that its visual, simple, and requires minimal effort on the part of the user.


Hunch might be the ultimate site in helping users make decisions. hunch

As an article on CNN described it “Hunch, a site that launches for the public Monday, will consider your quandary by getting to know you, asking you a series of questions and then spitting out three decisions.”

Apparently, as you go through a series of questions with Hunch, the site begins to know you better, and helps you make decisions. I’m not sure I want to be this broad in focus for my capstone project, but nonetheless, I thought it was an interesting concept.

biogameAlright, I have made my first attempts at creating a Flash game and quiz. I used a simple drag and drop script we had in Flash class to make a human body game. I think this type of game might be useful to learn about the organs of the body. My game is really simple, but I can see how if expanded upon, this could be an effective learning tool. Check it out here.

Also, I did a lot of research on how to make a quiz in Flash and found a good tutorial here. Again, it is a very simple quiz application, but it could be good for a site used as a supplement to other classroom tools.  The tutorial used an xml file to control the content and an Actionscript file to control how the quiz functioned and looked.  I had to use questions that were short because I could not figure out how to wrap the text from an XML file in Actionscript (P.S. Does anyone know how to do that?). Check out the quiz here.

Ok, so I have been adding more and more content on my science site. Here are some of the changes I have made recently:

  • I added a little rollover for the top navigation.
  • For each one of the five branches of science that I have, I now have a main page, a news item (blog), and a video page.
  • I made it so that when you’re in the Physics portion of the site (for example), the Physics label on the left side stays up.


Check out the changes: http://outsidethenormdesigns.com/science/

This coming week I’m going to work on building content of my own. I am hoping to be able to make a Flash game and quiz for one of the scientific branches on my site… I’ll keep you posted 😀

Ok, I have added a few things to my e-Learning website. I made an intro page where the user can choose which branch of science they want to learn about, with rollovers for the main sections. Any thoughts on the design? Also, I was wondering if anyone knew why this page looks insane in Internet Explorer. Did I mention I love IE? Just kidding.

UPDATE: I realized how to get around the problem in Internet Explorer by doing exact positioning in CSS for the ‘splash’ page.

Also, I’ve played around with a few background colors for the design, but haven’t settled on one that I totally like. Any thoughts?




I have to do a product site for my Flash class, and I have been working on a concept for a site that sells handmade products. Any thoughts about this design?

Ok, I’ve coded the basic shell of my site. See what you think…shell of the site

Below is the basic design of the site:


My learning objectives

My e-Learning site is focused on the topic of science for elementary school children. My original idea was to have a site that my brother could use as an elementary school teacher to supplement what he is teaching in his classroom. Originally, I was just going to focus on one science topic: the Desert, which is something that kids learn about in school in Phoenix. However, I decided to broaden the range of topics a little bit to cover Biology, Astronomy, Ecology, Physics, and Archaeology. For each of these topics, there will be blogs, videos, games, and quizzes associated with each.

So, I’ve kind of gone back and forth on a layout for Designing for Server Side. I’ve played around with a few designs and have settled on the one below. Does anyone have any thoughts? P.S. it is for a ficticious company that sells and rents independent movies. I’ve included a couple of variations…

This is the layout for the index page