The F & Z Layouts in Web Design

Posted: January 1, 2013, filed under: Design, Tutorials+Tips


On the F layout:

The F-Layout relies upon various eyetracking studies for it’s foundational concept. These scientific studies show that web surfers read the screen in an “F” pattern – seeing the top, upper left corner and left sides of the screen most… only occasionally taking glances towards the right side of the screen. These eyetracking studies argue in favor of placing the most important elements of your site (branding, navigation, call to action) on the left side of the design.

On the Z layout:

The premise of the Z-Layout is actually pretty simple: super-impose the letter Z on the page. Place the items that you want the reader to see first along the top of the Z. The eye will naturally follow the path of the Z, so the goal is to place your “call to action” at the end. All along the path you can include bits of information that build up to the call-to-action.

Another viewpoint from Vanseo Design:
3 Design Layouts: Gutenberg Diagram, Z-Pattern, And F-Pattern

Notes on the Principles of Game-like Learning

Posted: December 19, 2012, filed under: Games, Research

I just watched a great webinar at Connected Learning with Katie Salen who is a co-author of Rules of Play, and director of the Institute of Play. Below is a recording followed by some notes.

Katie Salen: Making Learning Irresistible: 6 Principles of Game-like Learning

Key Design Principles

How do we to take a theory and translate it into an actionable principle?

  1. Creating a need to know:
    • Games drop players into problem spaces that a player is willing to confront and solve.
    • Curriculum design should revolve around creating a need to know, not about what to know.
  2. Games as spaces of possibility:
    • Teachers create a space of possibility for students or players to tinker, explore, and test assumptions.
    • Start with content to teach and present it in a space for learners to experiment.
    • Get students comfortable with failing by structuring coursework around iterations.

    Read More →

Educational Games Research

Posted: December 11, 2012, filed under: Games, Research

Article: Learning to Play to Learn – Lessons in Educational Game Design
by Eric Zimmerman and Nick Fortugno

Excellent article summarizing the state of educational games. It addressing the split between educators and developers as well as the importance of using games to communicate process, not raw data:

…if your aim is to create a game about history, an experience in which players learn historical dates is less of a game-native approach than one about historical causality, or a simulation of a historical period.

Videos: Extra Credit’s Gamifying Education & Tangential Learning

Gamifying Education gives some strategies for teachers to bring games into their existing classes with simple mechanics. For example, recontextualizing grades with XP, using class wide achievements to encourage collaboration, and the huge potential of ARGs. And a great “plot your route” exercise using Wikipedia at about 6:50. All excellent stuff that would be relatively easy to implement – I really hope some of the teachers watching did.

Tangential Learning talks about, well, tangential learning which is the idea that some of an audience will self-educate on a topic if introduced to it via something that already interests them. This is common already in films and would be an easy way to introduce depth into games.

Conference: Games+Learning+Society – June 12-14, 2013 in Madison, WI

Games+Learning+ Society is a group of academic researchers, developers, and government and industry leaders in Madison, WI. They organize a few courses on games and ed. at the Univeristy of WI’s School of Education as well as creating projects connecting social practices with technology. The conference is in it’s ninth year and sounds fantastic – highlights include keynotes by forerunners in both academics and industry professions, interactive workshops, debates, hands-on gameplay, cocktails, and many more. I’ll be there.

Reading List: Games and Learning

A fantastic compilations of readings divided into the themes The Young and the Digital, Games and Learning Frameworks, Games and Learning Outcomes, Game Design, Games and Assessment, Simulations, and Learning Futures. From the Institute of Play.
Course: Video Games and Learning Course

One of those exciting Google finds, this is a wiki from a course taught at Western Oregon University. Fantastic stuff here.

Community: Gameful, The Games for Change Collaborative

Just discovered the online community Gameful. Huge amount of information here, especially check out the webinars. Plus opportunities to interact with fellow game designers, developers, artists, and the like.


An obvious component of this post, but I can’t fill it in quite yet. It’s one of those instances where I need to publish this now or else I’ll put it off too long. In the mean time, check out these educational game reviews from the course above.

Listen to: improv4humans

Posted: December 10, 2012, filed under: Findings

Excellent podcast with founding member of Upright Citizens Brigade Matt Besser. Each episode features fantastic improvisers who break off into scenes as they discuss miscellaneous topics. Dirty humor is not uncommon, fyi.

New Experiments in Self-teaching [TED Talk]

Posted: December 8, 2012, filed under: Findings, Research

Indian education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education – the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they’re needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

via YouTube

Remove .php from URLs [Snippet]

Posted: December 6, 2012, filed under: Tutorials+Tips

When making custom sites, I separate my code into various php files that each include a consistent header and footer so that I don’t have to deal with verbose, redundant HTML files. By default you end up with gross URLs like Make it by adding this to your .htaccess file and replacing index|about|.. with your own page names. There’s probably a more efficient way, but this works fine for small sites.


If you do like verbose, redundant HTML files, I imagine you could just change the .php in the snippet above to .html. Enjoy!

Epic Small this week = Socrates + Game Mechanics

Posted: November 29, 2012, filed under: Projects

Photo credit: Epic Small Facebook page.


Epic what?

Started by the brilliant Sam Wilson (a member of Catapult as well!), Epic Small helps you accomplish small creative tasks one at a time at week long intervals. Here’s an article by Kate Stoltzfus at Yinzpiration with some more info. I was on a roll with Epic Smalls a couple months ago but haven’t done one in a while. Ergo, I’m going to start them again. This week, 11/29 – 12/6, I will:

Turn the Socratic method into game mechanics.

Boring? Hell no! The other day I read Notes on Dialog, by Stringfellow Barr, which discusses dialectic and other Socratic things. I liked it and think the Socratic method would be ripe for a mechanics-as-metaphor experimentation. In sum, I keep talking about this “games for higher education” deal and need to come up with prototypes to better present it.

Note: game mechanics in this case mean tentative bullet points and paragraphs.

Update 12/5: This Epic Small has been awarded an extension (yes, by me) to Dec. 10. In the mean time, here is a Hand Crocheted Knight Helmet Hat With Button-On Movable Visor.

Update 12/10: Ahhh…turns out this Epic is not Small. It’s in my back pocket for now and I’m instating a new Epic Small for 12/17 which is: 1 exercise from Challenges for Game Designers. This is less intimidating and I recorded on the official Catapult Epic Small whiteboard, so yeah.

Update 12/18: For the record, I did this. Well, I incorporated it into a larger project that I am very excited about – just haven’t completed a post on it yet because that’s more than an Epic Small in itself. Stay tuned.

A Template for Analyzing Game Design

Posted: November 16, 2012, filed under: Games, Research

A note about analyzing vs. reviewing a game: an analysis mainly consists of what is actually present in the game, not what you think should be. Pick it apart and see what choices the designer made and think about why. I figured it'd be helpful to have a template for guidance when critiquing a game. Hopefully this will also be a useful inventory of mechanics for game design itself.
Disclaimer: this is pretty long and prepare yourself for some lists. Also, appropriate use of the definition list HTML tag follows. Anyways:

Formal Elements

The Basics
Name of the game, the platform, and time played. Note that you can get a good idea of the game from playing for 30 mins or so, it doesn't have to be a 20 hour endeavor.
A paragraph summary of everything below.
How many players are supported? Does it need to be an exact number? How does this affect play? Some types of player frameworks:

  • Single Player - like Solitare.
  • Head-to-head - 1 vs. 1, Chess.
  • PvE - Player vs. Environment, or multiple players vs. the game. Common in MMOs like World of Warcraft.
  • One against Many - Single player vs. multiple (obvy).
  • Free-for-all - Every man for himself (1 vs. 1 vs. 1 vs. 1..). Most common for multiplayer games, from Monopoly to Modern Warfare.
  • Individuals Against the System - Like Blackjack, where the Dealer is playing against multiple players, but those players have no effect on each other.
  • Team Competition - Multiple vs. multiple, i.e. sports.
  • Read More →

Issues & Assets, a card game concept

Posted: November 4, 2012, filed under: Games, Projects

Issues & Assets is a card game about WWI I've been working on. Pretty random, right? It's an assignment at the end of Game Design Concepts Level 3 (yes, I am working through this quite slowly) which was:

Design a non-digital game with theme a relating to World War I. The primary objective of players cannot be territorial control, or capture/destroy.

I watched some videos on WWI and promptly took a two hour nap afterwards because, well, obviously. Anyways, from my research I gathered that the war came about because of tension between world powers and unofficial agreements with one another. Maybe. I decided to create a game exploring pacts, agreements, and what it means to break them.

The game is in its first/second-ish iteration and I have not play tested yet (other than with myself). So 90% of the following will change, but I figure it's good to practice to write about it. Your goal is to:

Solve your Issues with the other player's Assets.


Issues are cards with a problem on them (they aren't related to WWI in this initial version, but could be later on). Each has a value of 1-4. Right now the Issues are things like Hungry (2), Depressed (4), or Bad Breath (1).

Read More →

Scathing critique of Digital Natives/Immigrants [Bad Websites]

Posted: October 30, 2012, filed under: Research

It’s a cliche by now, but really, Comic Sans? Doesn’t that pretty much prove the Natives/Immigrants arguments? Disclaimer that I haven’t read it at all (likely won’t) so the content could be legitimate. Of course this is in large part design snobbery from my end.

On a for real note, I reference the Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants article often and need to refresh my research, i.e. think more critically about it. As usual, maybe I’ll write more later about my findings.

Article in question.
A list of critiques.