DonnaM » Teaching


Website user experience & CSS workshop

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I’m very excited to announce that I’m teaching a new workshop with Russ Weakley. It’s called “Website user experience & CSS workshop: Designing for usability, building for the future“. It will be run in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, in late March and April.
I’m teaching the day on user experience, and Russ is teaching on CSS, which is lucky for you as I’m pretty good at ux and Russ is awesomely good at teaching CSS.

I’m really looking forward to it – I’ve wanted to go to one of Russ’ tutorials for a couple of years. And I love teaching user experience design for the web – I’ve spent a lot of time doing it, and a lot of time thinking about what I’ve learned and how to best share it.

I hope to see you, or your colleagues, there. Please pass details on to anyone you think may benefit.

Workshop description

A hands-on workshop with user experience expert, Donna Maurer, and CSS
expert, Russ Weakley.

Over two full days you will build detailed websites layouts from the ground up – starting with page layout, navigation and form design; and ending with clean markup and elegant styling using XHTML/CSS.

Day 1: Planning and designing the user experience – Donna Maurer

On day one you will plan and design a website – focusing on the user experience: designing the navigation, page layout and forms.

You will:

  • learn techniques to understand your users, and prepare user scenarios
  • understand your content with content analysis methods
  • create an effective and usable site structure (information architecture)
  • design a range of navigation methods
  • create page layouts for content, home, index and special pages
  • design simple forms

For each step, Donna will outline the fundamentals and show examples from small and large website projects. But most of the time will be hands-on -you work on your own project, ask questions and discuss with the group.

Day 2: Building beautiful sites using CSS – Russ Weakley

On day two you will build your website from the ground up – starting with structural markup, adding accessible markup and then styling your layout using CSS.

You will learn:

  • how to create well structured, accessible markup
  • the basics of CSS including rule sets, selectors, shorthand rules, inheritance and the cascade.
  • how to structure efficient CSS files
  • how to create a full CSS layout from a flat graphic mockup
  • how to deal with browser issues including specific browsers such as IE5,IE6 and IE7.
  • how to create a resolution dependent layout
  • how to create CSS for printing and hand held devices


Canberra – Monday 31 March and Tuesday 1 April

Melbourne – Thursday 3 April and Friday 4 April

Sydney – Monday 28 April and Tuesday 29 April

Brisbane – Thursday 1 May and Friday 2 May


More information and registration here:

Absorbing information from other fields

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

In the past week or so I’ve come across many situations where a comment or question has been posed by someone in ‘our field’, and someone has responded from a related field. Unfortunately the comment from the relation has been something like “I can’t believe your field doesn’t know that – we’ve known it and have been writing about it for years”.

It always comes across in that condescending tone – the tone that says ‘gosh, I can’t believe how stupid you all are’.

Although I understand how this happens – you can be so deeply involved in what you know that you can’t believe other people don’t know it – it is unfair, unrealistic and conceited to to expect everyone to chase your precious knowledge. In many cases people don’t even know your field is interested, in some cases they don’t know how you describe it, in some cases you just haven’t made your information easily available.

But gosh, there is so much to know. I have been doing information architecture and interaction design work for seven years, professionally, non-stop. I have done many projects, studied, taught and mentored. I have read hundreds of books on many topics. I regularly read stack of blogs. And every single day I find something new that would help me do my work and that I wish I knew before (e.g. last week Andrew told me about Peter Drucker, but he didn’t make me feel small about it). It is just not possible to know everything relevant.

So if you see someone naively interested in something you already know there are two ways to tackle it. You can take the self-centred view and get huffy about the fact that these idiotic people don’t know what you know; or you can take a user-centred view and look at how you (or your field) has communicated and made information available, then do something to fix that (yes, that was the leadingest* answer I have ever written).

And guess what – you can also politely help the person who is keen to know about your area of speciality. Given them some decent resources to follow up and some smart people to talk to. Use their enthusiasm to spread the word in their field.

Your word will get out, you can stop feeling superior and the world will be a smarter place.

(* leadingest is not a word, but for some reason it makes me feel like Bruce Sterling)

Training & world views

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

I was reading Seth Godin’s ‘All Marketers are Liars‘ this morning and something I read connected with part of my training dilemma I wrote about last week (where I commented how hard it is to teach people to think when they want answers).

The first chapter of his book is about people’s ‘worldview’ – the frames, expectations and biases that we all have. The chapter explains how these things relate to marketing and how marketers must work with how their customers think rather than against them. He points out that most people don’t want to change their worldview – that we actively look for things that support our worldview. He also reminds us that there are many, many worldviews, something that most UCD people recognise (some of us turn these into personas), but marketers sometimes don’t (and use demographics).

How does this relate to teaching? Everyone walks into class with a worldview. Some walk in ready to have a relaxing day away from the desk; some to expand their knowledge; some to take away some answers without thinking.

I have to remember:

  1. A class is varied and contains these worldviews plus some variants
  2. I’ll have a better overall outcome by targeting some worldviews over others.

I am a good enough teacher to meet the first two worldviews – I am experienced enough to make a day fun, and can open eyes and expand knowledge. I can’t meet the third without betraying my principles – I can only do what I’m comfortable with but no more. And I needn’t feel like I have to. As Andrew pointed out in comments, I just need to remember to manage expectations where possible.

So I feel better. Seth Godin on marketing reminded me of something quite unrelated (and provided a good read on the way to work).