I took Dr. O’Bannon’s Web Design course in Spring, 2008. A good place to start in describing the relevance of this course might be to emphasize that there is a big, big difference between “making” a site, and “designing” a site. Anyone can make a web page; whether it’s a blog or a really tacky Geocities one (RIP Geocities, we miss you… sort of) or something else.
“Designing” a site, on the other hand, presupposes a great deal more preparation and effort. We began in this course with a site specification document, in which we stated things like an intended purpose for the site, and who would be its intended audience. Every aspect of the site’s development was deliberate: site design (hierarchical organization of information), page design (layout and visual schema), typography, graphics… all of it was planned before it was implemented. That, to me, is paramount in creating something of quality. If you don’t really have a plan for what you’re doing with a site, you can’t ever really have any sort of established metrics for determining whether or not you’ve done a good job at it.
I made a couple of web sites over the course of this IT 578 course. One is actually my personal website at the university (Feb. 2016 edit: effective some years ago the UTK personal site became defunct when I retired my ancient Unix shell account. The site is now copied in its entirety to my hosting account). It contains things like my undergraduate and graduate curricula, and all the activities and project phases we completed for the IT 578 course.
The primary project in our Web Design course, however, was to create an instructional site. I decided to create a reference guide about information resources needed by students in the College of Law (where I work). I named the site “orange-aid“, and used it to introduce law students to various information they need about technology during their course of study. The development of the site strictly followed the design principles that were laid out by the text we followed in the course.