Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Idea #1: Writing Workshop for SG Authors and SG Editors

Hi, SmartGirls!

Here at the University of Michigan, where is based, all of the students are finished with class. Most of them have gone home to visit with their families. The town is empty and quiet. I am used to jostling my way around campus and weaving in and out of crowds on my way to work, but now I find that I am a lone wanderer. I feel like I'm in a science fiction movie and I have missed the memo that there has been an evacuation. I imagine the rare stranger who I see on the street as a soon-to-be comrade-in-arms against some near disaster. We left-over Ann Arborites will have to band together to save the day, discovering our own strengths--and our weaknesses. Hey, SmartGirls... anyone feel up to writing that screenplay?

The real point of this post, however, is to offer you a sneak peek at just one of the many changes we have been brainstorming for SmartGirl. I don't want to promise anything at this point, but I'd like to offer up our ideas. Feel free to tell us what you like and don't like about the idea, what is missing, and what you'd like to see.

Idea #1: Writing Workshop

How it is:
First we are focusing on improving something that already exists on SmartGirl. We have some incredible authors who regularly contribute their work and even proofread each other's stuff. Right now, it's all done through email. Although it gets the job done, it's a little disorganized. At every step, someone always has to wait on someone else to check her email. What a drag! Even more of a drag is that not everyone has the same software to write their work in, so sometimes proofreading gets a little crazy as the text switches from one format to another.

The idea:
Everything is going to be in one new place: on the website on SmartGirl. Girls can either upload what they've already written on their own computers or just start writing right on the website. Then they can submit their work to be proofread right through the website.

As soon as they submit, the work shows up so that any editor who has been approved by SmartGirl can start proofreading right away. As soon as the editor is done proofreading, it shows up immediately in the author's account. The author can see it right away, make any changes right there on SmartGirl, and then submit it for publishing.

Hmm... I think this post needs pictures. Next post: a mock-up of the process. In the meantime, let me know what you think or if you want me to explain something better!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Titles and New Places

If you've been visiting SmartGirl regularly, you probably got a little disoriented last week. All the sudden, the titles of each section changed and some of the content moved from one section to another.

How did we decide to make these changes?
We have been working on lots of new ideas for stuff we want to add to the website. For example, we want to make it so that SG Authors can work together through the website instead of through email. We want to add quizzes and contests and polls. We want to add career profiles that show what a job is really like, not just a basic description. Plus, there's so much more... there are almost 200 pages on the new website!

Well, that was a lot to organize, so we enlisted some local middle-school girls to help us organize it. We put the descriptions of all our pages onto post-it notes and asked the girls to group them how they thought they should go. Then we asked them to name the groups. The names they came up with are now on the site! Plus, we noticed that they put some things in places that were different from where we had them before. So, we moved that stuff to where they put them. We hope the site makes more sense to everyone now!

Here's a little overview of the changes, organized by the old titles:

Speak out changed to "Survey Says," and this part of the site is--duh!--where to take surveys and play around with the survey data!

This part of the site became "Creative Corner" because here is where SmartGirls can make stuff and imagine. there's Do-It-Yourself crafts, creative writing, and web design. Plus, we moved Super SmartGirl to this section because it is used to honor our poets.

This section turned into "Reviews," which seemed more straight-forward. Here there are staff reviews in SmartGirl Suggests and SmartGirl reviews in SG Reviews. Plus, Featured Reviews by SmartGirls are found in this section.

This became "Real Life" so that it could include more than just advice. Now all the non-fiction writing goes here, too, like SmartGirls' opinions on our topic of the month (The SoapBox), Love Letters, and Gold Stars.

"Wait!" you ask. "What are Gold Stars?"

Well, "Gold Stars" is the new name for "Shining Hours." In the past, visitors to our site had trouble understanding just what Shining Hours was about. Gold Stars is a more familiar idea that a lot of you have encountered in school. Gold Stars are what you get for doing a great job on something.

We're also adding a "The Best of Us" section for Embarrassing Moments. It might have been easier to call them "Embarrassing Moments," but we wanted to keep the spirit of the site positive and encouraging. Hopefully, we can all still laugh and smile while reading these stories, but now we'll also be able to say, "Hey, it's OK. We've all been there in one way or another."

It was actually a lot of fun making all the new images for the move. I used Photoshop and Dreamweaver to help me make all the changes.

Do you have any questions about the stuff that has moved around or the new names? Do you have questions about some of the stuff that is in the works? Do you want to know more about HOW I did it? Leave a comment and I'll get back to you with some answers!

Monday, December 7, 2009

So What's This Blog All About, Anyway?

Hello everyone,

Around SmartGirl, I'm known as Boowee. If you've submitted something to SmartGirl in the past 7 months or so, I'm the one who has read it, edited it, moderated it, or responded to it. And I love it! Working with SmartGirls has been so much fun, and I love my new job.

When I first got started, I was told to update the content regularly and try to spruce up the design a bit. Luckily, a former SmartGirl intern had just finished up with a User Survey that asked visitors what they wanted out of our website.

The survey said that visitors wanted:
* More interaction
* More updates more often
* Avatars
* College and career information and homework help
* Better navigation
* A new design that's a bit more modern and older

Some of these things we could change right away, but some of these things take a little longer to develop. That's where this blog comes in!

I'm so excited with all the new changes that are happening behind-the-scenes at SmartGirl, and I don't really want it to be some secret that I keep all to myself. I want to share these changes with SmartGirls so they can get excited, too! Plus, this is a great way to make sure that the changes we are making are going in the right direction.

So, from this blog you will see some of the cool behind-the-scenes stuff as we transform SmartGirl into something new, fantastic, wonderful, and spectacular! But don't worry... we aren't getting rid of any of the old stuff that you love.

If you see something you like, leave a comment and give us your kudos. If you see something you hate, leave a comment for that, too. Basically, we want your feedback whether it's good or bad.

I can't wait to hear all your thoughts, ideas, and opinions!