Idea development

I have been trying to consider more seriously what my potential site may look like. The character of Rasputin and the sentiment of the period is encapsulated in doom and gloom, not to mention political tension. In terms of interface design, I want to play to these sentiments using collage-style imagery, combining old photographs with Russian artefacts and patterns and a predominantly dark colour scheme. When the user visits my interactive page, I want them to be engrossed by the images in front of them; I want it to be a representation of the period in which Rasputin lived. This experience could also be enhanced by the use of music, perhaps an eery authentic Russian tune made by that of the kantele, which is inspired by the gusli (the oldest Russian multi-string plucked instrument). The gusli has played an important role in Russian culture and its sound could contribute significantly to the atmosphere of the site.

An example of the kantele/gusli sound.

Considering the depth of research I have found I have also come to the conclusion that an older audience is more suitable to this topic. There are so many complex and diverse perspectives and although the site could be directed at primary school aged children this would involve simplifying a lot of the fascinating information or, dare I say, ‘dumbing it down’.

The fall of the Romanov’s is currently part of the senior modern history syllabus so there is certainly a use for this project in that age group. The site could also attract adults with an interest in history.

The interface design and delivery of information will work hand-in-hand to ensure a successful user experience. The information conveyed will have to be concise, without taking away from its merits. A simple, easy to navigate interface that is not over-done will be necessary in order to hold on to the imagination of the user. I think this will best be achieved with a clear nav bar to return to the ‘home screen’, a mute button for sound and a roll-over mouse function, where objects light up as you move over them. As much as I like Re-enchantment, I am not a fan of its movement. When you are in its ‘little world’ you are never quite sure where you are going. It’s lack of an easy to navigate menu is its downfall, in my opinion. Some people like the idea of going in and having to explore, however I think with my project I would much rather a static page. This would probably make it more technically feasible too, especially given my inexperience in flash.

In my research I came across the following Russian history website called Alexander Palace which has a biography of Rasputin. It has provided me with an example to work from – showing how photographs and scroll bars can be used to enhance user experience.

Looking at this example, I like the use of font and the style of the ‘letter’ on the right-hand side.

However, for my project I would like to use a darker colour scheme with more black, dark greys, blues and greens as I feel this would help to emotionally encapsulate the user into the mysterious nature of Rasputin and his death.

I also found some other interactive history websites to work from which use simple interfaces, although for different purposes:

  • Although it’s designed for kids, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for Kids website exemplifies simple, clear and successfully themed navigation with a menu on the left-hand side as well as an interactive timeline
  • The Greeks: Crucible of Civilisation has very easy navigation which enhances usability but has way too much text with not enough imagery or interactivity – an mundane example to avoid

Perhaps a home page could appear with a central image of Rasputin with a type of mindmap menu structure – ‘Who is Rasputin?’ with sub-topics such as ‘The Romanovs’, ‘The mad monk’, ‘The lover’ and, on the other side, ‘Who killed Rasputin?’ with sub-topics including ‘The scene of the crime’, ‘The culprits’, ‘The weaponry’ and ‘The autopsy’.

Obviously, there are many aspects of this project that need ironing out and this is all very draft-like. At the moment, this process of blogging is about throwing around and recording all the random ideas that come into my head! I am looking forward to putting together more of a solid proposal and collaborating with a partner… it will be helpful to work with some outside perspectives.

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About Jessica Hynes

This globe-trotter has spent the last few years travelling the world in search beautiful landscapes, good food and even better wine. From Nepal’s highest peaks to Bolivia’s salt flats, Jess has an undying appreciation for nature. A born and bred Sydneysider, she has a close connection with the ocean and is passionate about protecting it.
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