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Intro to Design and Usability

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Intro to Design and Usability

B. Maura Townsend's picture
Course organiser: B. Maura Townsend
About the Course Organiser: 
I came to p2pu as a hopeful student, since I want to go back to work in web design with current skills after taking several years off to parent (small amounts of freelance and hobby work do not count as "work" in this statement). I noticed  a lot of calls for classes for beginners and classes that focus on backend, code, and the "bones" of web work, but not much mention at all of basic design and usability for those who are new.

After college, where I majored in Graphic Communications and minored in Theatre, I came to web design as a traditional graphic designer with a love for computers. What this means is that all my formal training is in traditional methods, paper and ink, and I am and always have been a voracious learner when it came to computers and ended up teaching myself HTML and several different graphics programs. I worked for several years in Silicon Valley and later Austin, TX, doing web design and graphics work, most recently illustrating technical manuals and making icons in Tivoli's Interface Design group.

An abbreviated list of interim activity:

B. Maura Townsend

No of Seats: 
Course Status: 


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Why is web design important? What is Usability and what does it mean to my site design?


This is a basic introduction to usability and design fundamentals for absolute beginners. Designing for the web is all about presenting your content so it works best within a relatively fixed environment, such as an HTML/CSS document, and usability is all about making it work well for users who have fairly fixed expectations of how to navigate a website, so they enjoy using your site and stay to use your content.

The goal of this course is to get you thinking about design from the point of view of the audience, not the designer, and not the client. The focus of this class will be on understanding design and introductory usability concepts for people who already have some very basic HTML skills. We will look at what constitutes typical user behavior; eye tracking and how designing to typical behavior means certain layouts are more usable; why contrast, text sizes, type styles, choice of graphic elements, and color choice are important; and a basic overview of what user experience is and why it's important for any page. We will also cover what copyright means to you as a designer and where to get images and content legally, as well as looking at freely available online tools.

We will be using the publicly available work of Vincent Flanders and Jakob Neilsen as our main resources.

Copyright vs. creative commons resources:

Learning objectives

  • Why design is important on every site
  • How web design is different from print design
  • The role of graphics, color choices and font styles in user experience
  • Eyetracking and user behavior, and what they mean in site design
  • Basic information presentation (menus, graphics, main and additional content)
  • How to present supplementary content (video, downloadables, interactives, galleries)
  • Where to get images legally plus a brief overview of copyright and how it applies to the web
  • Tools and resources for the beginner (including online tools like Aviary)



Really looking forward to the

Sue Falkner's picture
Sue Falkner
Mon, 2011-01-24 00:46

Really looking forward to the experience of undertaking a course in this format! Should be a great journey for all of us involved, thank you for accepting my application.

Thank you very much for the

Juanita Vyatri's picture
Juanita Vyatri
Mon, 2011-01-24 14:02

Thank you very much for the acceptance! I'm very excited :)

Would you please let me know

Merwyn Soares's picture
Merwyn Soares
Fri, 2011-01-28 01:45

Would you please let me know whether I have been accepted for this course. Please email me eitherway. Thanks - Merwyn Soares

If you look at your profile

B. Maura Townsend's picture
B. Maura Townsend
Fri, 2011-01-28 05:20

Mervyn Soares,
If you look at your profile here on P2PU, you will see whether you have an open application or have been accepted into any courses. The box marked "Courses Applied For" will list any open course applications.A box marked "Current Courses" will be present if you have been accepted into any courses, and will list them.

Unfortunately, we didn't have room for you in the course. Out of 150 applications, I was able to accept 50, and that was after adding two co-facilitators to the course.

I did attempt to contact you, as I did all the applicants, but you have blocked your contact form.

Thanks to all the

B. Maura Townsend's picture
B. Maura Townsend
Sat, 2011-03-26 05:13

Thanks to all the participants for making this course an exciting and interesting experience for me! It's been great.

I hope you all learned something valuable, even those who were not able to complete the course.

The course mailing list at Google Groups and the course site will remain available, and everyone who is subscribed to the list will be able to continue posting there if you have questions in the future or you wish to go over the discussions there.

Happy learning!