BCM302 Digital Artefact Contextual Essay
Going to the beach is an extremely popular past time for many Australians, whether that be surfing, swimming, or just chilling on the sand. Therefore, people often want to know “Where should I surf and when should I surf?” and “When and where will the waves be best?”, hence the need for quality surf reports.
Since the age of 11, I have been an active member at North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club. I began as a Nipper in 2012 then finished in 2014 and began patrolling. During this time, I met Kel and Michelle, long-standing members of NWSLSC, who in their spare time run North Gong Daily. They began North Gong Daily (NGD) on the 11th of January 2018 as a free daily surf report for people seeking reliable, free information on their local beach. Each day, Kel and Michelle go down to North Wollongong Beach and record themselves taking a look at the beach. They also create two stats images, which they source from magicseaweed.com.
In 2019, I approached them and asked if they would be interested in having me build a website from scratch for them. Having recently created a WordPress blog for BCM112, I suggested WordPress.com as the host, as it was what I was familiar with, to which they agreed.
When creating the site, there were a number of websites used both as inspiration, and as things to steer clear of in our site. The website coastalwatch.com, provides information on North Wollongong beach in the form of both a written paragraph and statistics as well as a live surf cam. When clicking on the site initially, the surf cam takes up a large portion and in order to access it, Users must sign up for a paid subscription. Upon clicking on the Premium option, it redirects to the website surfline.com, another surfing website, which suffers from the same problems as the previous site – ads and the paid surf cam take up most of the page, and the raw stats can only be found by scrolling down past this. This abundance of ads and content hidden behind a paywall creates an unpleasant experience for people who just want to know what the beach is like today, and therefore something I steered away from when creating North Gong Daily.
The site swellnet.com is easier to look at and find information, however the information it does offer is very limited, and there is no visual content available, despite there being a “Daily Photos” tab. On the other hand, surf-forecast.com is clustered with irrelevant information (e.g. ads) and the sites design looks outdated.
Magicseaweed.com is slightly more appealing, in that it offers its information appears at the start of the page. Though it has ads and a “magic seaweed pro” option, the core information and imagery is still accessible freely. It also has a 7-day forecast for the coming week’s surf stats. WillyWeather.com also served as an influence on NGD’s design, as it is ad-free and has a good range of weather and surf forecast information (though this may be confusing for some viewers). It also has a beachy-blue aesthetic that is appealing to look at.
North Gong Daily is a surf report website and, more recently, a store for NGD’s merchandise. Every day, I upload their video, two stats images and a picture of the beach to the site. These videos are recorded at North Wollongong beach and feature Kel, Michelle or a friend giving the report of the beach that day. The stats images are created by Kel and Michelle and I save these from their Instagram page*. I also access a folder on google photos, which contains more than 400 pictures of North Wollongong beach and its surrounding area. One of these pictures is included on every post, as the layout of the site has thumbnail pictures for each post, therefore, including a picture gives the post a beachy aesthetic and looks nice. Having a picture on there also lets users know that we know the beach inside and out, due to our time spent there, giving off a more credible vibe.
The site is built on a WordPress Business plan, as this allows the use of plugins. There are two plugins currently in use on the site – WPForms and WooCommerce. WPForms allows me to include a small feedback form at the bottom of the Home and Checkout page for people to share their thoughts on the site. This was suggested to me by a fellow student, Verity, in their Peer Review of my project, and was an excellent suggestion as feedback is a difficult thing to gather for my Digital Artefact.
Recently, I began transforming the site from just a website into an online store, where my audience can purchase all of the North Gong Daily merchandise. To do this, I have been using the plugin WooCommerce, “a customizable, open source eCommerce platform built on WordPress”. WooCommerce is designed to give Users the freedom to build their online stores, however they would like. Due to my inexperience with eCommerce, I began with a simple store, keeping it to a small page on the site. There are currently 10 items available in the store – 2 hoodies, a long sleeve tee-shirt, 4 Men’s Tees and 3 Women’s Tees. Adding items to the store requires the following steps:
- Obtain a photo of the product from a shared Google Photos folder
- Under the Product tab of the WooCommerce plugin, select “Add New”
- Give the new product a name and short description.
- Place the product image/s in.
- Make the product a “Variable product”
- Give the product custom attributes (different sizes)
- Under Variations, give each size a price (prices remain the same for each size, but each size must still be individually given a price).
- Prices are:
- $35 for Tee-Shirts
- $45 for Long-Sleeve Tees
- $65 for Hoodies
- Prices are:
*The Instagram and Facebook pages are not a part of my Digital Artefact, only the website.
In their article, Wood, Nelson, Atkinson & Lane (2008) state, “You can’t tell any more the difference between what’s propaganda and what’s news”. This quote is extremely important when analysing the social utility of a project, as it is important to remember that the project must be relevant and useful for the creator, whilst also benefiting the audience and the public. North Gong Daily has social utility for 3 groups – the creator (myself), the collaborator/prosumer (the people it was created for) and the public.
North Gong Daily was created to help two friends branch out their Instagram/Facebook project, and give them an avenue to create a safe place for them to sell their clothing. Because of this, they play a role similar to that of the Prosumer, in that they create the content for the site, but the site was created for them to use. It has social utility for the public, as they are able to access all the information they need to know about the beach and the forecast, and the videos allow them to view what the beach looks like on that day, similar to a surf cam.
The website also has social utility for myself as the creator, as it lets me showcase my website development skills to potential clients and employers. According to Toorenburg (2015), “The initial screening of applicants’ résumés can lead to strong first impressions regarding their hirability”. Being able to make a good first impression is essential when searching for potential employment and being able to show the projects I have worked on will be invaluable for this. Therefore, North Gong Daily has a lot of utility for myself, as it will serve as an indicator of my skills, dedication, willingness to learn and professionalism.
Response to Feedback
The hardest thing to access for North Gong Daily, is feedback. Because North Gong Daily is the type of site where Users access the information then leave the site, there is very little communication between myself and my audience. Often, when people give feedback or suggestions on how to access feedback, it is usually in reference to the Instagram and Facebook pages, which I have no control or access to. Furthermore, asking people what they think of the site usually results in comments such as “it’s cool”, which is an appraisal, not constructive criticism which will help the site to grow. As mentioned above, a fellow student suggested I implement WPForms on North Gong Daily, to give users the option to give feedback and suggestions, which will hopefully allow me to access more feedback.
Feedback is a difficult thing to give clearly, as “humans are unreliable raters of other humans”, because, people are able to point out others flaws, but are incapable of seeing their own flaws. This results in all people being unable to truly observe objectively, as there is always some form of bias (Buckingham and Goodall, 2019). Therefore, because the feedback I have received is from such a small group of people, there is bound to be bias to it. This by no means discredits the feedback I have received, but rather, NGD would truly benefit much more from a large amount of feedback. Accessing feedback is the largest problem I have with North Gong Daily, and because I receive such a small amount, I believe more feedback would be extremely helpful for my Digital Artefact.
FIST is a concept created by Dan Ward, standing for Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny, that seeks to demonstrate the most effective process of creating a project. Ward (2011) states “success is more profitable than failure”, and “data indicates FIST has a higher success rate than the big, expensive, slow approach”. This means that projects that fall under the FIST concept have a higher chance of success, as they can access feedback, don’t break the bank, and are easy to maintain, making the process smoother as a whole.
In an article by Keller & Wirthlin (2013), they state that “early feedback from users leads to rapid development and shorter timeframes”. Therefore, the Fast in FIST actually refers to how quickly feedback can be accessed, as well as how quickly content can be produced and shared with the audience. As North Gong Daily has issues receiving feedback, I believe it fails in that aspect of Fast, however, producing content does satisfy the Fast concept, as it only takes 10 minutes a day for me to complete.
When applying Inexpensive to my project, there are two opposing outcomes. The project is inexpensive for me, as it is being funded by the creators of North Gong Daily. However, it isn’t inexpensive on their side of the project, as they must pay for the business plan of WordPress as well as the merchandise.
Whilst setting up North Gong Daily, it wasn’t Simple or Tiny, as I had to learn a lot of information to successfully complete it. However, now that it is set up, posting each day takes about 10 minutes to do, and is easy to fulfill, therefore I believe it does now fit Simple and Tiny.
Though Ward states that FIST is more efficient than failing, I have also used FEFO (Fail Early, Fail Often) in my project. FEFO is the theory that “it is possible to learn from failure then the sooner the failure occurs, the sooner the learning begins” (arrkgroup.com, 2019). The idea is that the faster you fail frequently when creating your project, the more you’ll learn from it, and adjust to work better, rather than being unable to adapt. I have used FEFO a number of times for North Gong Daily, one example being when I implemented the current theme, and had to start including a picture of the beach as a header image for each post. This worked well, as the site now looks nicer and shows off a picture of the beach as well.
There are a number of things I plan on doing with North Gong Daily moving forward. Firstly, I plan on completing the store, as I only have 2 items left to add. I would also like to try a number of different themes, to potentially improve the site’s layout, design and functionality.
In our class discussion for BCM302, it was discussed that I should try to monetise and turn my website creation skills into a business, and approach other surf clubs in the Illawarra area and offer to re-do their websites. Since our discussion, I have contacted North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club, and I will be starting my work on their site, as well as showing them how to maintain the site themselves, at the end of November.
I was also approached by Aurora Consulting, a training and consulting company, who have asked me to recreate their website to make it appear more modern and professional. We met recently to discuss what it is they want changed and we will be starting this in December.
Undertaking this project during my time at university has taught me a number of skills and knowledge. Prior to starting university, I had very little knowledge regarding website creation. Now, upon reaching the end of BCM302, I have created two websites and will be beginning two new projects for two separate organisations at the end of November and early December. I am now considering a potential career in the website creation industry, as I have found it interesting and believe I am good at it.
A major learning moment for myself, was coming to understand the phrase “Show, don’t tell”. When North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club approached me, it was completely unprovoked by me, and was (presumably) because they had seen my work on North Gong Daily and wanted me to do the same as I had there. The same is true for Aurora Consulting, I hadn’t inquired into whether they wanted me to work on their website, but they were aware of my previous work and approached me first. Therefore, I have created a page on my personal blog that acts as a digital portfolio of all the digital & social media work I have completed and partaken in.