Project Critique.

Elise: AusDrugs.

The original aims of the “AusDrugs” site were to inform and educate Australians about illegal drug use and drug effects in a safe space free of judgement and conviction. In her project pitch Elise acknowledged that, for Australians, this sort of information is lacking and this sort of website would have quite a high social utility as it would prove very useful to those in need of this sort of information. Elise wanted her website to be easily accessible, have a clear and concise layout and be written in language that is both engaging and easy to read. All of these goals seemed relevant, achievable and would create a digital artefact that was both useful and interesting.

The beta presentation re-confirmed these aims and it appears a lot of them were achieved. The website is filled with information, easy to navigate, written in accessible language and the units and currencies have been appropriately converted and are relevant to the Australian market. In the pitch it was acknowledged that the information would be largely curated from other sites, such as r/drugs and Erowid, but the original aim to reiterate this content seems to have been lost slightly, as a lot of the information on AusDrugs is simply copied from, or linked to, other sources. Clearly a lot of effort has gone into creating and curating the website though, and this effort has created quite an extensive, information-intensive website.

The ‘harm reduction‘ section is the most detailed and perhaps helpful section to users – this category seems to successfully reflect what Elise was originally trying to achieve. The layout of the section, by using click-through images, is useful in breaking up the walls of text. The repetition of the images and chunky borders around them weren’t as appealing, so perhaps some more refinement on the images would be useful. More variety, and a removal of the borders, would likely create a more professional, interesting website.

The focus on just the five drugs – cocaine, cannabis, MDMA, methamphetamine and LSD – was probably due to time and resource constraints (she is just one person!) but the website would definitely benefit from having a more extensive list of drugs. Or, alternatively, a justification as to why just these drugs have been detailed could work well. Perhaps some statistics or media reports on why the drugs Elise listed would be imperative for Australians to know.

The beta presentation itself was well done – Elise speaks well, was confident in her subject content and was at ease in front of the class, taking us through her website and giving us information as she saw fit. Maybe a more structured and detailed presentation, outlining key aims, achievements and problems encountered, would have been useful, but overall all bases were covered and the presentation was engaging and informative.

The beta was slightly let down by the actual layout and construction of the site. Small things, such as the ‘.wordpress.com’ in the web address and the WordPress flavicon took away from the professional appearance of the site. Despite monetary costs being involved to fix issues such as this, the extra effort would have created a very professional looking website that may have garnered more trust with those viewing it (Kruetz 2010). The aesthetic layout could have also used a little more time. Although the colouring and categories menu along the top of the page is easy to both use and read, the layout template could have been further customised to create a more ‘professional’ look away from the basic blog template; maybe with a customised header or some differing font choices. Even a site logo would add to the website and give it a stronger sense of identity.

Similarly, some of the image links were broken and it disrupted both the beta presentation and my further exploration of the website. This is an issue that can be easily fixed, buy spending a little more time on the website’s navigation and ensuring that all the links work correctly and guide the reader properly (as of 22/10 these issues have been largely resolved). The ‘home page’ is also a little confusing for readers, as it is pulling posts from all categories of the site and makes things a little difficult to follow. A static home page with category links, or using the ‘about’ page as the home page, would be more effective. Another option that may be worth exploration is ‘featuring’ a different drug every week, as feature pages that regularly change draw readers back to the website repeatedly (Hayes 2013).

The trajectory of the creation and curation of the website seems to be reasonably well done. Posting began as early as September 13, and the website was updated sporadically but reasonably often until the beta presentation on October 19.

Something that could have helped the website would be more promotion, across multiple social media platforms. One of the original aims in the pitch, of having a Facebook page that linked to the website, seems to have been discarded completely. There also appears to be no promotion across social media. Reddit, in particular, would have been an effective promotional tool for this website. A post on r/drugs or, even better, a post on r/DrugsAustralia would be appropriate. Tumblr also has quite a strong ‘drug information‘ community, and reaching these individuals would likely have a positive result.

Lastly, the actual platform could be reconsidered. Although WordPress is great for customisation and is commonly used when building professional websites (Rampton 2015), a Tumblr page could have been a more suitable platform. Attracting a younger demographic, tight-knit communities and a more ‘alternative’ culture (Hart & Third 2013), Tumblr may have lent itself well to this sort of project. Tumblr users could have reblogged, liked and commented on posts they felt were useful or interesting.

References:

Hayes, M 2013, ‘How to double your traffic without any Marketing’, Shopify, April 17 2013, <https://www.shopify.com.au/blog/7655755-how-to-double-your-traffic-without-any-marketing&gt; accessed 22/10/15

Hart, M & Third, A 2013, ‘Why Tumblr fosters deep and enduring forms of online intimacy’, UWS News Centre, 8 Nov 2013, <http://www.uws.edu.au/newscentre/news_centre/expert_opinion_stories/why_tumblr_fosters_enduring_forms_of_intimacy_online&gt; accessed 22/10/15

Kreutz, C 2010, ‘When do we Trust an Information Source?’, Crisscrossed, Jan 8 2010, <http://www.crisscrossed.net/2010/01/08/when-do-we-trust-an-information-source/&gt; accessed 22/10/15

Rampton, J 2015, ’25 Reasons Your Business Should Switch to WordPress’, Entrepreneur, Jan 20 2015, <http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241535&gt; accessed 22/10/15

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