Digital History: More like Digital Design & Marketing

Having evaluated several history sites, I have a greater admiration for web design. Sites with poor layouts detracted from the organization’s historical narrative. I evaluated The Emancipation Project, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, and the Digital History Site by the University of Houston. Visitors to The Emancipation Project website are greeted by a somber color scheme and an entrance page. The black background, steel gray text box, and the navy blue accents appear dark and unwelcoming. Unlike a book’s preface, the entrance page hinders readers by representing an obstacle between the audience and the desired material. Introductory messages can be integrated into the main page of the website. Arguably, modern internet users demand this simplification. Upon entering the site, visitors are not provided with any guidance regarding the links and the graph that both appear in light gray text against a gray background.  The media links require QuickTime downloads to function and lack keys to interpret the maps. In addition, the website’s logo lacks clarity. The phrase The Emancipation Project is bolded in white font against a light colored image. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database’s logo is also difficult to read due to the small text size of the subheading and the word Voyager appearing almost transparent with the background color. The Slave Trade Database’s website materials are also aligned completely to the left of the webpage. Alignment issues may derive from screen resolution differences but these issues can be corrected with HTML adjustments. However, the Slave Trade Database possesses user friendly navigational tools that allow visitors to seamlessly transition through the various topics. The interactive map and easy to read popup text encourages readers to explore the databases. Unlike The Emancipation Project, the Slave Trade Database features bright colors that foster a sense of cleanliness and efficiency. Although the University of Houston’s Digital History Site uses darker colors, the ambiance of professionalism remains intact. Houston’s website features crisp accents and a well-organized menu. The links are easy to read and are also presented on an awesome interactive graphic that allows the visitor to choose a timeframe and reference material. The information is presented on a collage of American visual history that serves as the backdrop. The navigation tools also permits users to shift effortlessly through the many subjects to gain access to primary sources.

Regarding my own blog, I understand the importance of how efficient design dictates the successes of digital history. The Emancipation Project contained valuable sources however, due to a poor layout; the evidence was not as appealing as was the information gathered from Houston’s Digital History Site. The new challenge for academic professionals is to learn how to market their skill and find success amongst nonprofessionals in this new digital medium. My blog will demonstrate this struggle as I will attempt to learn the features of WordPress and create a site that is visually pleasing and presents World War One Wichita Falls.

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