Love it? Like it!

Tell your Facebook friends how great you think I am.

The problem.

The professors in the Goshen College English department had a vision for an online center dedicated to Mennonite writing. They wanted to create a space where writers, readers and scholars could come together around this literary niche. What they lacked were the tools to make their vision a reality.

The process.

The Center for Mennonite Writing grew out of a Maple Scholars research project during the summer of 2007. Professors Ann Hostetler and Kyle Schlabach wrote a proposal to create an online space for the practice and discussion of Mennonite writing. They selected me as their student researcher and asked me to investigate the technologies for creating such a space and to create a prototype of the site that could be used for further fund raising.

From the outset it was clear that the Center for Mennonite Writing would be anchored by an online literary journal. Working with Kyle, I evaluated several online journals and magazines to learn the best practices for creating this type of publication. I also explored trends in Web 2.0 site-building to make the CMW site interactive and user-driven.

Out of this research, I developed an organizational structure for the site that included three sub-sites: a journal, an encyclopedia and a community section. These sub-sites would be tied together under the Center for Mennonite Writing umbrella and brand, and their content would be connected using a tagging system.

The visual identity.

For the visual identity of the site, I was charged with creating a design that captured “Mennonite experience,” both past and present. For the logo, I selected the image of the Anabaptist digger from the Martyr’s Mirror and simplified and abstracted it. I then broke the CMW logo into is component shapes to form the logos of each of the three sub-sites.

For the home page, I based the design on imagery from the bookplate of a 1708 Froschauer Bible. This image comes from the fraktur tradition, an art form closely tied to the historical Mennonite experience in some areas. As in the logo, I abstracted the original imagery nearly beyond recognition, employing suggestion rather than representation to create a connection to the Mennonite tradition.

The prototype.

To build the prototype for the site, I used the Drupal content management system, which was—and continues to be—one of the leading CMSs for community-driven sites. By the end of the eight week research program, I had constructed a functional Drupal site that included the three sub-sites and a theme based on the visual identity I created, as well as custom views and content types.

The solution.

At the conclusion of the Maple Scholars term, the prototype was complete, but the requirements of the project had evolved significantly. When Ann approached me to build a final version of the site, I decided to re-implement it from the ground up using Django, a Python Web framework. This approach offered a number of advantages, including fine-grained control of content types and presentation logic and an agile development style.

Like what you see? Tell your peeps!
E-mail Favorite Facebook Twitter Delicious MySpace Google Digg Technorati LinkedIn StumbleUpon More...