Essays | Paula Petrik at George Mason University


“top ten mistakes in academic web design” (2000)

Faculty usually make their first foray into integrating technology into their teaching by putting their syllabus on the Web. Putting a syllabus into digital format renders it accessible to students and solves a number of logistical and routine problems for the instructor. A smaller number of higher education folk mount entire courses online, both for distance education and for traditional course enhancements. Presently, there are enough of these examples to make some comments about the usability of these sites and where they are going wrong. First published in History Computer Review, the essay is included here by permission.

“designing history for the web” (2000)

This piece was presented at the AHA in January 2000. Because it was a conference presentation, it lacks some of the detail and apparatus that are a part of the more developed exploration. Nonetheless, it does describe a general model for integrating technology into the classroom by thinking about classroom activities in terms of access, interaction, and evaluation and offers some concrete advice about getting started.

“publishers websites: human history site” (1997)

Originally, a series of contributions made to M-MMEDIA, a now defunct list hosted by H-NET, this essay takes up again the question of how we might evaluate history web sites. Using the criteria developed in “History & New Media,” the essay applies these standards to the Human History site as a way of illustrating the principles of informational, aesthetic, and technical design. Shortly after the H-MMEDIA contributions appeared, the site was drastically revised. Alas these and subsequent revisions, albeit improvements, did not solve the basic problems singled out in the original pieces, and the site vanished. A decade-old advertisement once asked, “Where’s the beef” Historians might have asked of the Human History site, “Where’s the history?”

“history & new media: designing history” (1997)

In 1996, I began thinking about criteria for a good history web page. Commercial developers and designers were taking some steps in that direction, but historians and academics, in general, appeared more concerned about “getting stuff up” on the Web than thinking about the process. Adapted from a paper presented at AHA in 1997, the essay develops some criteria, applies them to a portion of a web site, and discusses a prototype that implements interactivity.