North Texas Daily

Students develop design and coding skills with new campus group

Students develop design and coding skills with new campus group

March 23
20:11 2016

Victoria Monteros | Staff Writer

@ToriLaSuper

Students don’t have to know how to write code to be a part of UNT’s newest coding group. In fact, they don’t even need to know how to make a Microsoft Word document.

UNT Association for Design and Code president Brandon Harwood founded the website design and coding group last semester to provide students with a positive, engaging learning environment, give them hands-on experience and help connect them with major businesses in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“The whole point is to help people learn how to do these things and have fun doing it,” Harwood said.

The group attracts majors in computer science and related fields of study but is open to anybody who wants to better their web development skills. A psychology student himself, Harwood wishes to recruit people of all interests.

“We’re looking to get future designers and future engineers working together on projects and getting them hands-on experience,” Harwood said.

Members meet at 7:45 p.m. Tuesdays in Curry 210. They share ideas for projects, ask questions and provide feedback to one another’s projects, as well as contribute to group projects.

“If you’re just interested in coming and learning about how we design websites and how we build applications, come check us out,” computer science sophomore Richard Kriesman said. “We’re open to anyone who wants to learn.”

Club leader, Brandon Harwood, reviews with students how to use Moqups so they may design their own website template. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

Club leader Brandon Harwood reviews with students how to use Moqups so they may design their own website template. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

Harwood started a thread on UNT’s subreddit on Reddit about forming the UNT Association for Design and Code. That is how Kriesman, now their secretary, found the organization.

“I’m mostly a code guy,” Kriesman said. “My design skills are a bit lacking. So Brandon was like, ‘Hey I’m starting a club, it’s going to try to merge code and design together, kind of focus on the interaction between the two.’”

One of the organization’s current projects is the design and development of its website, which it started planning out this semester. Not only has it ideated the future of the website, but it has also started the process of coding and publishing it online.

The group discussed everything: how the logo will look, how the website will appear on different browsers and whether it is suitable for mobile devices or not. It has also discussed conducting tests for user-friendliness.

It has just finished what is called the “wire frames” of the site. Something called “information architecture” establishes the flow of the website. Next, members plan to implement their idea of user testing to see how a regular person navigates the site and what may need to be improved.

Following those steps, the group will start high-fidelity “moqups,” when it will essentially work on the visual aesthetics of the website. Upon approval, it will code and publish it on the Internet.

“It’s all very collaborative,” computer science junior Aaron Johnson said. “It’s all very optimistic. It’s very laid back, you know, trying to build something from the floor up… It’s always a good thing to be able to build that sort of ethic, to build a group; to build websites.”

Aside from brainstorming and creating the website, the group has hosted a number of workshops. It has brought in developers, professionals and representatives from Intuit, Peterbilt and Code Authority to give workshops. Later in the semester, Harwood plans to host workshops on JavaScript and design analysis, as well as one about decision-making when it comes to designing websites.

“It’s a very open group — you can kind of come and go if you want,” Johnson said. “You can pretty much jump in at any point from any level of experience and still be able to contribute.”

A major upcoming project, called Hack North Texas, is slated to take place in the fall. Harwood said he wants to have 300-500 attendees coming from UNT and around the country. He is currently recruiting people in marketing, finance and logistics to build a team dedicated to the project.

In a hackathon, students collaborate on ideas and work together on website design and development. Attendees are usually given prompts by sponsors or donors of technology equipment and are encouraged to make something, like an app or a product.

In addition to stimulating creativity and providing an opportunity to gain more experience in the field, hackathons can also provide job opportunities.

“A lot of companies sponsor these events,” Haywood said. “A lot of them go to these events in order to recruit interns or potential future employees, and it’s a really good way to get students not just excited about learning to build stuff but getting them hands-on experience.”

Featured Image: Students listen intently as they learn how to use Moqups, a program used to build websites. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

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