English 626, Issues in Rhetoric/Professional Writing:
Web Site Design and Development

Fall, 2004: Wednesday, 6:30-9:20 p.m., PUM 405 and 408.

Instructor: Leigh Henson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English dlh105f@missouristate.edu www.missouristate.edu/english/dlhpages/dlh.html

Office: Pummill 4A. Office phone: 836-5399; dlh105f@.missouristate.edu (as needed, use the phone or paper messages to follow up and verify email messages)

Department office phone (to leave a message in my mailbox) 836-5107

Office hours: MWF 10:00-10:45 a.m.; MWF 12:45-2:30 p.m.; and by appointment, including W at 9:20 p.m. as needed


     In this course, I use the term Web page to mean a hypertext document with "a unique address or URL" (L. Rosenfeld and P. Morville, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, p. 61). Such a unique address may be indicated as "http://www/xxxxx.com/htm(l)." I define a Web site as a set of companion Web pages linked from a homepage. A Web site is like a book; some Web pages (except for the homepage) may be like a chapter of that book; and some pages may be like a part of a chapter.

     More and more organizations in business, industry, government, and education offer Web sites. Even a casual browsing of Web sites reveals a variety of purposes (or apparent lack of one), scope, use of verbal and visual content, and complexity of organization. Some Web sites are like mere image-building ads, while others attempt to conduct a complete array of external communication from market research (forms for customer response) to news (press releases) to product/service promotion (brochures and white papers) to sales transactions (e-commerce forms) to full customer support (Web-based user guides). Moreover, Web site visual appeal, usefulness (value to the viewer), and usability (ease of use) vary radically in quality.

     Creating effective Web sites requires knowledge and skill in writing, document design, graphic arts, toolsmithing, and project management. These areas of expertise are those in which technical communicators are educated, trained, and experienced. Thus, technical writers, editors, and publication managers find professional opportunities in the daunting challenges of Web site development.

     This course emphasizes how rhetoric, the parent discipline of technical communication, provides the guiding principles necessary for Web site development. Rhetorical concepts guide the integration of verbal and visual elements in Web site development, just as they do in any other form of technical communication. This course is designed to accommodate graduate students of technical communication at Missouri State who range from little or no experience with software used in creating Web sites to those students with advanced skills. This course attempts to offer a balance of appropriate theory and its application. The primary focus is on the application of writing, design, and problem-solving skills to Web site development. Thus, the course is not primarily intended to provide software training, but you will advance your computer skills significantly.


     Like the Web itself, resources for creating Web sites are continuously changing. Sources cited here have proven value. We will search for other useful resources throughout the course.


Nielsen, Jakob. Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing, 2000.


Farkas, David K., and Jean B. Farkas. Principles of Web Design. NY: Longman, 2002.

     Online resources:

Browser compatibility and links to many resources: www.anybrowser.com

Comprehensive: www.echoecho.com and site of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): http://www.w3.org/, http://www.webmasterworld.com


FrontPage 2002 how-to information: http://office.microsoft.com/assistance/category.aspx?CategoryID=CH010422531033&CTT=98

Lynch and Horton's Web Style Guide: Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites (Yale University Press):

Michael Stowe’s links at http://courses.missouristate.edu/mas006f/links.htm,

Tools information: www.netmechanic.com,

Rosenfeld, Louis, and Peter Morville. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., 1998.

Sand, Darrell. Designing Large-Scale Web Sites: A Visual Design Methodology. New York:
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996.

Technical Communication 47.3 (August, 2000). (special issue: Heuristics for Web Communication)

Other readings identified in the schedule of assignments.

Learner Objectives

Web Site Knowledge and Skill

  1. To develop a rhetorical approach in the critique, makeover, and creation of Web sites, especially those that present technical information
  2. To develop an understanding of the primary and secondary communicative purposes appropriate for a particular Web site
  3. To increase skill in analyzing audiences and apply that information to improve Web site design and usability
  4. To increase knowledge of the kinds of organizations that present technical information on Web sites
  5. To understand the developmental, organizational, and navigational challenges of developing large Web sites
  6. To develop skill in designing the layout of individual Web pages, including effective combination of verbal and visual elements
  7. To develop knowledge of Web site publication and promotion

Technological Knowledge and Skill

  1. To expand and refine skill in using appropriate computer technology, including FrontPage and Photoshop
  2. To increase knowledge of other appropriate hardware and software
  3. To use computer technology for research

Research Knowledge and Skill

1. To become familiar with the professional literature of Web site design, publication, and promotion

2. To expand and refine skill with Internet research

3. To increase skill with interviewing and observation as ways to increase expertise in Web site development

Required Work

     Note: Reports for this course will be formatted like this course policy statement. All course projects and the final exam must be completed for you to qualify for a passing grade in the course.

  1. 100 points—A critical review (3-4 pages) of a resource on some aspect of Web site design and development (a book or Web site other than those identified in this course policy). This report will identify the purpose of the resource and evaluate how well that purpose has been achieved.
  2. 200 points—A critical review (5-6 pages) of a Web site of a for-profit business or industry whose products/services are of special interest to the student. This report will include specific examples of how the site and/or its pages could be improved. These examples may include a page makeover. Another requirement is email communication with a developer (Web master) of that site. This project requires use of the instructor’s rating sheet titled "A Data-Based Strategy for Document Evaluation," which serves as an all-purpose rating sheet for any kind of document (printed or online). This all-purpose rating sheet will be supplemented with a shorter rating sheet that focuses on features unique to Web site/page usability, and this second rating sheet will be developed collaboratively among the members of the class.
  3. 100 points—A report (3-4 pages) on some topic of computer technology relating to Web site/page creation, publication, or promotion. The instructor will provide a suggested list of topics from which students will choose (a student has the option of proposing some other topic, and I will approve it if it meets the criterion of allowing a useful demonstration or tutorial). These topics will be practical for this course, and the oral reports should include a demonstration or tutorial that will help other students advance their Web skills.
  4. 300 points—A professional Web site, including portfolio, and a 2-to-3 page cover memo explaining the main design, writing, and publication challenges and how they were met. This project requires you to design the scope of a proposed professional Web site for yourself and begin to compose certain parts of it: homepage, resume in PDF and HTML formats, and online portfolio consisting of at least three examples of other projects. These projects should include makeovers for improving visual appeal, clarity, and readability on the Web. The projects may be in PDF or HTML format. No more than one of these projects should be from English 626. Each project should be introduced by at least two paragraphs to tell the story of that project, that is, to explain the context and purpose of the project (type of course assignment or work project, etc.), the problems/challenges of the project, and features/strengths of your work.

         The homepage will have a navigation component with functioning hyperlinks to your resume and a page with links to the portfolio projects. The homepage must also present links to two other kinds of pages: one is to be developed; the other can just be a "dummy" page. For these pages, consider such topics as (1) career objectives and interests; (2) self-assessment of strengths; and (3) your writing philosophy--values, beliefs, and expertise with rhetorical and document design theory and practice, the role of computer technology for communication, and anything else you consider to be important in professional/technical communication.
  5. 300 points—A feasibility study (6 to 7 pages) of doing some kind of Web work with a local business or non-profit organization. The feasibility option will require evidence of email communication with at least three local non-profits or businesses. I will work with the class to identify the organizations to be contacted by each student so that each organization will be contacted by no more than one student.
  6. Or,

    300 points—A combination of work on a Web site of a local business or non-profit organization and a report to explain that work (4 to 5 pages). This report will include information from email correspondence with a contact person in this organization with whom the student has worked.

  7. 300 points--class participation. Beginning with the first week of class and continuing for the next 14 class periods, students will receive 20 points (raw points, not percentage points) for class participation. Participation is defined as being present from 6:30 p.m. till time of class dismissal by the instructor, making oral presentations as assigned, asking and answering questions, discussing class business, peer editing, and performing other collaborative work, such as helping one another with computer tasks.
  8. 100 points--Final exam: a critical review of a Web site identified at the time of the final exam.

     All course projects and the final exam must be completed for you to qualify for a passing grade in the entire course.

Procedures and Standards

     The course reflects how computer technology and such business practices as downsizing and outsourcing compel individuals to perform multiple tasks: planning, researching, designing, writing, working with graphics, editing, publishing, and promoting Web sites. Thus, the course stresses not only individual effort, but also collaboration so students can help one another handle computer technology. Class time will be devoted to oral reports from the instructor and students, discussion, peer review, individual instruction, and computer lab work.

     Deadlines are important in business, industry, government, and English 626. Projects are expected at 6:30 p.m. on their due dates unless otherwise announced. Eight percentage points will be deducted for the first late day and four percentage points off for every other late day (not counting weekends or holidays).

     All projects should be prepared with computer technology and should apply design principles insofar as possible. Do not use gender-specific language. Grading follows this scale: 100-90=A, 89-80=B, 79-70=C, 69-60=D, 59 and below=F.

Evaluation will be strict but fair. Criteria used for grading papers will correspond to criteria used to judge writing on the job. A writer's main goal is to be effective in a well-conceived communicative purpose through correctness, clarity, coherence, and conciseness in all design aspects from content and page layout through punctuation.

Correctness: This concept means accuracy and appropriateness in content and conformity to directions, requirements, design principles, and appropriate language (which often means "formal" English). Avoid errors in sentence construction (typically for example, fragments, run-on sentences, comma splices, dangling/misplaced modifiers, and problems with lack of parallelism and errors of grammar (especially subject/verb agreement and pronoun usage), and mechanics (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation).  Writing errors such as these weaken clarity and credibility. Readers judge professional expertise by the quality of writing.

Clarity: Be direct. Pay close attention to the reading audience and adapt communicative purpose, content, organization, and language usage to the readers. Eliminate irrelevancy, poor sense, faulty logic, contradiction, vagueness, absolute generalizations, as well as undeveloped, unsupported ideas. Define terms, and use vocabulary familiar to the reading audience.

Coherence: Use logic and audience adaptation for overall organization and paragraph structure. Enhance coherence through the use of transitional words and phrases. Achieve good paragraphing sense by using topic sentences. Avoid stringy paragraphs.

Conciseness: Use economy of language. Wordiness decreases clarity. Use varied sentence structure. 

Source Documentation: Whenever you borrow information (direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary), cite the source according to MLA format). Be sure you pay particular attention to the way in which source citations refer to specific pages where borrowed information (direct quotation, etc.) is located in a source.

Plagiarism and Cheating: Cite the source of all ideas, facts, and words not your own. Courtesy, honesty, and convention require this. Ignorance of citation (documentation) techniques is no excuse. Plagiarism (as defined in class) and other forms of cheating will result in your failing a given project and may cause you to fail the course. Any student participating in any form of academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions as described in the Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures, which can be found at
http://www.missouristate.edu/acadaff/AcademicIntegrity.html (also available at reserves desk in Meyer Library).

Special Warning About Computer Technology and Deadlines: No deadline extensions will be granted because of problems with computer technology, including printers. Store your work on hard drives and back up often with floppy and/or zip disks. You are assumed to be computer literate and personally organized enough to avoid ALL data storage and retrieval problems, regardless of such causes as crashes, viruses, and mysterious and cosmic conspiracy. No projects (early, on time, or late) may be submitted by email or email attachments because electronic submissions can create computer hassles and add to department expenses of using a laser printer.


     Missouri State is a community of people with respect for diversity that emphasizes the dignity and equality common to all individual faculty, staff, and students. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, or veteran status in employment or in any of its program or activities. Missouri State is an equal opportunity institution and maintains a grievance procedure incorporating due process available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against. At all times, it is your right to address inquiries or concerns about possible discrimination to the Equal Opportunity Officer, Carrington 128, (417) 836-4245. Concerns about discrimination can also be brought directly to your instructor's attention, and/or to the attention of your instructor's department head. The Missouri State statement of nondiscrimination can be found at http://www.missouristate.edu/eoaa.htm.

Disability Accommodation

     Missouri State is committed to making reasonable accommodations in policies, practices, or procedures necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated, or otherwise treated differently from other individuals in the University community. The instructor in this course strongly supports the University’s disability accommodation policy and will make reasonable accommodations for any student with a physical or documented learning disability in order to facilitate the student’s learning and performance. Students requiring an accommodation should contact the instructor during the first week of classes, and they are encouraged to use the Learning Diagnostic Clinic and the Office of Disability Support Services. To request accommodations for disability, students must contact Disability Services http://www.missouristate.edu/disability, Plaster Student Union Suite 405, 417-836-4192; TTY 417-836-6792. Students must provide documentation of disability to Disability Services prior to receiving accommodations.