Author Archives: Confessions of an Indian girl

Peer Review #2

First Impressions and Homepage
This week, I’ll be reviewing Sam’s blog, sgonline.ca, with a focus on design principles. My first impression is that the home page is fairly obscure and I’m not sure what the focus of the blog will be. The header, which looks like an image of Vancouver at night, features a title that says “Welcome!” and in the top left corner “Sam’s Publishing 101 Blog”. The bold white text against the dark Vancouver skyline creates a nice colour contrast. The text of the title and menu is clear and easy to read. However, it was a bit confusing trying to determine what the blog would focus on based on the header and title. I suggest changing the title or header to reflect something about the content in order to captivate and guide readers right off the bat.

Overall, it looks as though Sam hasn’t strayed too far from the default settings of his original theme. In “How To Survive the Digital Apocalypse”, Travis Gertz raises concerns that we have designed ourselves into a corner by being reliant on design choices created by machines. To address this concern, I think Sam can incorporate more of his personality and style into his design decisions.

Homepage of sgonline.ca

The home page also features an “About” section in which Sam introduces himself as a Communications student at Simon Fraser University who will be posting about class and his personal life. I like the personal description, but I think it could be incorporated into a sidebar using the widget feature as it is fairly short. This would free up room for Sam to feature some posts on his home page, and the featured posts might give readers a sense of what the blog is about. To clean up the home page a little bit, I think Sam should remove the comment box under the about section. The comment box creates a lot of unnecessary white space and throws off the visual equilibrium of the page. All of that said, I’m intrigued to see what topics will be discussed in Sam’s posts.

Site Structure
The structure of Sam’s blog is fairly straightforward. I noticed that the balance is a bit off on the homepage because the title is centered while the “About” section is aligned to the left. I’m not sure if this can be changed, but it might be something to look into.

Looking to the menu for some guidance, I can see that it features three categories: Home, Posiel, and Other. I think the “Other” category is a bit vague, and specifying it further would help guide readers. This could be done by separating the sub-categories into two main categories: “Video of the Week: and “Song of the Week”. I also think “Blog” could be a separate category, rather than falling under the “Posiel” tab. Placing the “Blog” category under “Posiel” creates an additional hurdle for readers, and some people might not check the drop-down to find the additional categories. I think it is especially important for Sam to have clear categories because there are no posts featured on the home page, and so the only way for readers to find content is via the menu.

Screencap of the main menu

I’m unable to make any comparisons between Sam’s theme and the default version because I can’t find the name of the theme anywhere on the blog. However, it seems as though Sam has customized the colours of his theme to include all black text with an orange accent. I like the use of the orange accent as it creates consistency throughout the site: the hover function, read more buttons, and tagged categories are all set to orange. One thing that I noticed is that Sam’s posts don’t feature any photos, and I think that this detracts from his ability to effectively use certain design principles. I think that incorporating photos would help Sam create balance and proportion.

Typography
I like the use of the sans-serif font as well as the size and spacing of the text. Overall, I find that it reads really well. Some people might not like the use of a sans-serif font for both the body and the header, but I find that they complement each other well on Sam’s blog.

Usability
I tested the responsiveness of Sam’s website through mobiletest.me. The layout is flexible and there are no major issues viewing the website on different devices. The posts load quickly and there are no large images to slow down the loading speed. The comment section on the home page seems to take up a lot of space when viewing the site on mobile likely because the layout is condensed. This can be easily fixed by removing the comment section.

Conclusion
Overall, I think that Sam is off to a good start and has successfully implemented some of the design principles that were discussed in class. There is a bit of unnecessary content that can be cleaned up (such as the comment section on the home page) but this can be fixed fairly quickly. In his process posts, Sam mentioned that he thinks he is boring compared to others in the class. Overall, however, I found Sam’s process posts insightful and engaging. Sam mentions clown college in his first blog post and this sounds like a really unique and interesting experience that I hope to read more about in the future!

Aztec Indian Healing Clay and Lush Mask of Magnaminty- Do They Really Work?

Think your skin could benefit from a little TLC? Want to unwind and pamper yourself for a night? This sounds like a cheesy paid advertisement, but I promise it isn’t. If you’re like me, you likely answered yes to at least one (or maybe both!) of these questions. Whatever the case may be, here are two face masks that I’ve tried and would recommend to anyone looking to try a new skin care product: the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay and the Mask of Magnaminty from Lush. These masks are both cost-friendly and effective – the perfect combination. Here’s an overview of how I like to use the masks, as well as the pros and cons of each.

INDIAN AZTEC HEALING CLAY
Pros:
-Leaves skin smooth and clean
-Prevents break-outs
-Improves skin texture
-Inexpensive

Cons:
-Can be harsh if you have sensitive skin
-Hard to wash off
-Dries out skin (be sure to follow with a moisturizer!)
-Can plug pipes

Step 1: Cleanse skin with your favourite cleanser/face wash.
Step 2: Using a bowl and plastic spoon, mix 1-2 tsp of the clay with equal parts apple cider vinegar (I recommend Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar). The container recommends using 1 tablespoon, but I find that this is almost always too much for me. You can substitute the ACV with water or mix the ACV with water to get the desired consistency. However, I find that using ACV on its own has the best results.
Step 3: Leave on for 10-15 minutes for sensitive skin, or 15-25 otherwise. Your skin will probably tingle or itch but don’t be alarmed because this is normal and a sign that the mask is working.
Step 4: Wash the mask off. This can get pretty messy. I’ve read that bentonite clay can clog pipes (although I can’t speak from my own experience with this) so you may want to use a warm wash cloth instead of rinsing the mask down the sink. It might also help to pick most of the dried pieces off and then wash the rest off with water. Your skin will most likely be red in some spots at this point but this is normal and will go away in 10-15 minutes.
Step 5: Moisturize with your favourite moisturizer.
Step 6: Revel in the feeling of your soft and glowing skin, you beautiful human.

MASK OF MAGNAMINTY (SELF-PRESERVING VERSION)
Pros:
-Leaves skin feeling clean
-Easy to use/wash off
-Improves skin texture
-Smells great

Cons:
-Aduki beans aren’t ground well, which makes it difficult to apply the mask
-Can be irritating if you have sensitive skin

Step 1: Cleanse skin with your favourite cleanser/face wash.
Step 2: Smooth mask over your skin.
Step 3: Leave on for 15 minutes.
Step 4: Rinse off with warm water.
Step 5: Moisturize with your favourite moisturizer.

Have you tried either of these masks before? What are some of your favourite skin care products? Leave a comment below!

Process Post 5

My design and editorial designs have largely been shaped by who I perceive my audience to be. The typical audience member that I have been imagining falls into the following categories: female, late teens – early twenties, student, living in Vancouver, enjoys music, cooking, and reading the occasional product review and personal anecdote/opinion post. My aim is to keep my theme clean and simple as most people (especially students) don’t want to exert much energy or time navigating a website. I have tried to keep the tone in my posts engaging and informal in order to ensure that my content is relatable and fun to read.

Initially, I thought my blog would center around topics that I personally find interesting: culture, mental health, etc. As the weeks have progressed, however, I realized that while I am interested in these subjects, they may not be relatable to a wider audience. Moreover, focusing on these topics would significantly limit my ability to post about other subjects that I might want to explore. In turn, I decided that I would try to blend my previous ideas with topics that are relatable to a broader audience such product reviews, recipes, and experiences – an amalgamation of everything. According to Michael Warner (2002), a public is the social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse. Rather than being passive consumers of media, we are active participants in its creation. The creation of my website is one example of this – the decisions regarding my content have, to an extent, been shaped by what I think will appeal to a broader imagined audience.

My blog is relatively new so I don’t think that I have many viewers outside of people I know in real life. I believe that my current audience is limited to my classmates, professor, friends, and close family members. On my blog, I feel comfortable enough to share information that I wouldn’t otherwise disclose (as openly) in face-to-face conversations. According to John Suler (2004), this willingness to share personal information online can be explained by a phenomenon known as the online disinhibition effect. I believe the disinhibition effect has, to an extent, been counteracted by the knowledge that my friends and family members visit my website. Although I share information that I would not otherwise bring up in face-to-face conversations, I am still cautious about sharing information that is too personal in nature such as thoughts about subjects that are highly divisive or contentious. Overall, my decision-making process has been influenced in different ways by both my imagined audience as well as the audience I believe is actually reading my content.

Expanding the scope of my blog was daunting at first because it restricts my ability to identify with one subject. I am not a food blogger, a beauty blogger, or a tech expert. So that left me wondering: do I even have a clearly articulated online self? What does it mean to clearly articulate oneself? *Cue existential crisis brought on by pub 101*. Just kidding!

These questions lead me to an interesting article that explained the distinction between a personal blog and a lifestyle blog. Why is it important to differentiate between the two, you ask? In the article, Ashley Coleman notes that we look to classifications to help us understand what type of content we’re reading. Having a clearly articulated self allows our reader to digest our content. The difference between a personal blog and a lifestyle blog is subtle but important to consider. Personal blogs focus heavily on personal narrative and opinions. On the other hand, lifestyle blogs incorporate personal elements but give you something to take away, like a recipe, or a fashion recommendation. I think my blog falls in the “lifestyle” category. Although I incorporate personal experiences and opinions, my posts provide the reader with something tangible to take away like a recipe, review, or playlist rather than focusing solely on personal narratives.

References

Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. Cyberpsychology and Behavior 7(3), 321-326. Retrieved from http://truecenterpublishing.com/psycyber/disinhibit.html

Warner, M. (2002). Publics and counterpublics. Quarterly Journal of Speech 88(4), 413-425.

Eternal Abundance: Van Hot Chocolate Fest

This year marks the 8th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival in Vancouver, as well as my first year attending! Deciding on a café was a difficult task because there are 35 locations participating and 75 flavours to choose from. I’m by no means a hot chocolate connoisseur, but I know that I love caramel. So naturally, when I saw “caramel” on the list, I was sold. I went to Eternal Abundance Organic Market & Café on Commercial Drive to try out the “Turtle Hot Chocolate” which is both organic and vegan. It was a caramel hot chocolate with coconut whip, caramel drizzle, and pecan. It also came with a turtle chocolate on the side.

The hot chocolate was rich and creamy, and the coconut whip and crushed pieces of pecan on top were a nice touch. However, it had a dark chocolate flavour to it that I wasn’t a huge fan of. The caramel flavour was subtle and not very noticeable. I would recommend this hot chocolate if you’re a fan of dark chocolate and coconut. If you’re looking for something with a more distinct caramel flavour, then I would probably pass on this one. The festival runs from January 20th– February 14th (dates vary by location) which means there are two days left if you’re interested in checking out! Did you try any flavours this year? Comment below if you have any experiences or recommendations to share!

– J

Process Post 4: Web Design

This week, I will be evaluating the blog of one of my favourite lifestyle bloggers/Youtubers, Zoella. Zoella is a 26 year old vlogger who posts about all things “Beauty, Fashion, and Life”. I would definitely recommend checking her out if you’re looking to follow a new lifestyle blog!

Performance

Last week, Mauve mentioned some factors that may hinder performance such as unnecessary content, large images, carousels, and web fonts. Zoella’s site does well in this area as it does not include unnecessary content or large images. One drawback is the use of a carousel that is meant to feature more than one post. I would recommend removing this because it is distracting and I think that people tend to overlook images featured in carousels.

Design Principles

Zoella’s blog is evenly balanced – there is an even distribution of white space on the top and bottom, and the weight seems to be distributed evenly throughout (all posts are the same size and separated by thin white lines). Each of Zoella’s posts is represented by an image with a short caption surrounded by a white border. Each row of photos utilizes a different colour scheme to create a colour gradation. These factors serve to create predictability and order, which allows the reader to move through the site with ease.

All of Zoella’s posts are the same size with the exception of the featured carousel at the top of the page. I like that the featured post at the top is larger than the other posts because it creates hierarchy and directs the eyes. However, I think the fact that the image constantly changes is distracting and can be hard on the eyes.

Zoella uses the size of the text to create contrast. The categories are capitalized and the subcategories are in lowercase letters. There are quite a few categories and subcategories so I thought that the difference in size was a nice way to create hierarchy/order.

The consistency in the colour palette (baby pink and blue) among the pages creates unity. I think this is especially important in a site like Zoella’s as she posts about many topics and features a variety of photos in each post. Zoella ties the diverse nature of her posts together by creating harmony through a consistent colour palette.

Reflecting on My own Website 

The major design changes that I made over the past week are 1.) changing the colour of my header and working towards a specific colour palette to use throughout my website (dark green, beige, black), 2.) installing the category excluder plug-in to hide Posiel posts from my home page, and 3.) incorporating a featured image with each new blog post.

Creating a consistent colour palette is something that I’m aiming for with my site but have been struggling with. I think I will stick with the dark green, black, and beige for now. I changed the colour of my header but haven’t been able to implement this colour into other areas of my site. I will work on incorporating this colour scheme throughout my site over the coming weeks. I think having a consistent colour palette will help create unity/harmony.

I think I have created unity by consistently adding a photo with each new blog post. I need to work on ensuring that each photo I upload is around the same size. The current featured photos are different sizes and it looks a bit awkward and detracts from the balance. However, I think there is an even distribution of white space on my website which serves to create a sense of balance.

One area that I need to improve on is the creation of hierarchy/order.

The drop-down sections utilize the same font and are all capitalized. I think this makes it difficult to distinguish between the parent category and the child categories. I think one way of dealing with this issue is by changing the font of the child categories like Zoella has done (e.g. capitalize parent categories and lowercase for sub-categories).

Applying the design principles that Mauve introduced last week has really helped me see what design changes I can make to improve my website. I hadn’t considered a lot of the principles when I initially created my website. Time to get to work!

Playlist 1: Relax

Here are a few relaxing songs that have been in my library for several years now. I listen to these songs on repeat and they never get old. Comment below with some of your favourite relaxing songs!

  1. Flume – Bon Iver
  2. Comin’ Home – City and Colour
  3. Body in a Box – City and Colour
  4. What Makes a Man? – City and Colour
  5. People Help the People – Birdy
  6. Re: Stacks – Bon Iver
  7. Vienna – Billy Joel
  8. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right – Bob Dylan
  9. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
  10. Skinny Love – Bon Iver
  11. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac

 

Process Post 3: The Online Self

This week, I mapped out some visual components of my site. I was hesitant about changing things, but I’ve come to realize that creating a site is not a linear process. I added a new category and named it “Listen” because I would like to share some playlists in the future. I think adding playlists to a specific category would be more appropriate than adding them to the general category “Blog”. I’m not sure if I will keep the Blog category because I think that it will encompass too many different types of posts. I think having specific categories for various topics would be a more organized approach. I will adjust my menu as I continue to add new posts and think of new potential categories. I will keep my PUB 101 content under the “Posiel” category, which has a drop-down of Process Posts, Essays, and Peer Reviews. I may add some of my Posiel posts to other personal categories if they are relevant.

My aim is to create a polished and simple look, so I cleaned up my sidebar by removing the archives, search bar, recent posts, and recent comments. I replaced these with three social media icons – Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. However, my Instagram profile is private, and most of my Pinterest boards are hidden. Therefore, users who click on my social media links will have to request to follow me if they want to see my posts. I have other platforms as well (Linkedin, VSCO), but I decided against including them because they feature personal photos and information beyond what I am willing to share with the audience of my site. I think the idea of selectively sharing information is disconcerting because it highlights an idea that is hard to grasp: “a disinhibition/inhibition continuum” (John Suler, 2010). This phenomenon is known as an altering self-boundary in which an individual tends to “vacillate between feeling disinhibited and restrained.” (Suler, 2010). I will continue to allow certain information to be known publicly (my name, my interests, certain photos), but I will protect some of my personal posts on platforms like Instagram. I think this is reflective of my uncertainty and unease regarding how much I am willing to share online.

In the article “How I got My Attention Back”, Craig Mod notes that disconnecting from the online world allowed him to regain his attention and recognize the need for self-care. I related his experience of regaining his attention to my own experience around exams. I tend to delete my social media applications and keep my phone in another room when I’m studying for midterms and finals and it has been very beneficial in my experience. It’s much easier to concentrate when I don’t have the urge to check my phone all the time. I also find that I’m more productive when I decrease my phone use. I can relate to Craig’s experience of greater mental clarity after disconnecting. The online world is full of information and many apps are designed with the intent of keeping the reader using the app for as long as possible. Sometimes I feel like I have multiple tabs open in my brain and it can be mentally taxing. During the times that I’ve deleted my social media applications and greatly reduced my use of the Internet, I find that I’m able to think more clearly about my life. Realistically, I would not be able to be offline for one month because of school and work obligations. However, if those things were not relevant, I believe I could go offline for a month. I would likely feel a bit uneasy at first because I use my laptop and phone every day, but I think in the end I would spend more time doing activities that I enjoy.

Peer Review #1- Lemons to Oranges

 

Within weeks of creating her site, Heather has developed a space that is aesthetically pleasing and educational. The tagline “When life gives you lemons and you wanted oranges” is both humorous and relatable – who hasn’t been in this sort of predicament? I believe this tagline also highlights a vital aspect of Heather’s blog – upcycling. Therefore, “Lemons to Oranges” is clever and conveys a key aspect of her website in a concise manner. Heather’s website strikes me as creative, resourceful, unique, and educational. For example, in one of her first posts, Heather provides us with a step-by-step visual guide of how to transform an old pair of jeans into a pair of shorts, a skirt, a tank top, or a choker.

Design

The theme of “Lemons to Oranges” incorporates colours such as orange, green, and pink, and Heather has also added a custom image featuring a lemon in the background. I found this refreshing and unique as it is a marked deviation from the current trend towards a more minimalistic design. There are currently three menus, which made it a bit difficult to navigate the site. I would recommend replacing one of the menus with social media widgets (Pinterest would work well for this type of site!) to make the site easier to navigate.

Engagement

“Lemons to Oranges” features a variety of measures taken to engage the reader.   According to Matthew Stadler, publication requires listening, transparency, relationships, and conversation, as well as deliberate strategies to cultivate these conditions (Stadler, 2010). Heather engages her audience by implementing a light-hearted poll, a contact information section, and a message box. In doing so, Heather recognizes that “the nature of a public is not one way, it is not the provision of material to be consumed…the nature of the public is a multiple-way conversation that’s reciprocal” (Stadler, 2010). I think Heather has effectively implemented elements on her website to facilitate relationships and conversation.

One minor suggestion that I have is to incorporate hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are a way of strengthening the “interconnected spirit of the world wide web” (Derakhshan, 2010). Hossein Derakhshan (2010) argues that “hyperlinks aren’t just the skeleton of the web: they are its eyes, a path to its soul.” By incorporating hyperlinks, Lemons to Oranges would facilitate communication among sites on the web.

Spelling/Grammar

For the most part, the site is free of spelling and grammar errors. However, I did come across a few minor errors. Using a website like Grammarly, or even doing a quick spell check on Microsoft Word would assist in this area.

How to: Make a Cup of Chai

Chai is the perfect drink for a variety of occasions: in the morning as your caffeine intake while reading the paper (or religiously scrolling through social media), get-togethers with family and friends, or to sip on during a rainy day. At this point, I’ve started to associate the drink with family gatherings that are marked by story-telling and laughter. It’s also my go-to drink when I’m feeling stressed, anxious, or low. I’m not sure if it’s the blend of spices, the creamy flavour, or the familiar scent, but something about it is so comforting.

The great thing about chai is that it can be tailored to your desire. India’s languages, food, and customs vary from region to region. Similarly, the preferred way of making chai varies across regions and even households. There are a variety of spices that can be used or excluded depending on your preference. You can adjust the amount of milk, sugar, and spices to get the perfect cup for yourself. My grandma prefers her chai sweet, while my dad opts to go easy on the milk and sugar. I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle. This is the basic recipe that I like to use, but feel free to adjust it to your liking.

How to: Make a Cup of Chai

  • 1/2 cup milk ((I recommend using 2%))
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cardamom
  • 1-2 cloves
  • Pinch of fennel seeds ((about 10-12 seeds))
  • 1/4 cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 tsp sugar or other sweetener
  • 1 tsp loose tea leaves ((I recommend using Lipton Yellow Label Tea, Brooke Bond Red Label Tea, or Taj Mahal Orange Pekoe Tea))
  1. Crush the cardamom and cloves using a mortar and pestle and put to the side

  2. Bring water to a boil 

  3. Add the spices (cardamom, cloves, fennel, and cinnamon) and reduce to medium-low heat for two minutes

  4. Add 1 tsp loose black tea and steep for one minute

  5. Bring to a boil, add the milk and sugar, and bring to a boil again

  6. Strain and enjoy!

I recommend using 2% milk to increase the creamy flavour, but your preferred type of milk will work as well. 

First Blog Post: Welcome

When you enter a new space, someone will usually greet you in some way whether it be a hug, a formal hello, or a simple nod. I always feel a little more at ease when someone smiles at me or says hello after I’ve entered a new space. Seeing as this is my first blog post, I thought I would post a sort of greeting/introduction (a virtual welcome, if you will). I created this website as a project for class, but it will also serve as a vehicle through which I’ll share my thoughts and interests.

I kept a journal between the ages of 10 and 17 (see below), but I stopped because of the amount of time, commitment, and effort required. I’ve considered starting a private journal online, but it never materialized because I didn’t know where to start. This blog won’t be a “journal” per se, but it will allow me to share some of my thoughts and interests. I’m excited about this new project, and I can’t wait to see where it will go.

I pulled some of my old journals out from under my bed and immediately remembered why I keep them hidden away (read: they’re cringe-worthy). After reading a few pages, I’m seriously considering burning them. The one on the top right came with a lock and key and I was naïve enough to think that no one would be able to open it. There are a few that I wasn’t able to find but it was probably for the best. I still remember having a Lisa Frank journal that looked like this and I thought it was so cool. Anyways, I’m going to go take a shower to try washing the cringe off of myself.

My Journal Graveyard